THE chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs on Tuesday urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to conduct thorough search, particularly against illegal drugs, on all vehicles daringly violating community quarantines and passing through designated police checkpoints in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, the panel chairman, said that despite the government’s strict travel restrictions to prevent spread of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID)-19, huge volume of motorists are bravely passing thru checkpoints without regard of being flagged down and issued traffic violation tickets.
“I’ve seen on TV and newspaper reports that PNP personnel manning those checkpoints just flag down and issue traffic citation tickets against quarantine travel violators without conducting a thorough search against the erring drivers and their vehicles,” said Barbers.
Barbers explained that under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, quarantine violators’ vehicles can be thoroughly checked for drugs or other illegal cargoes since they have already committed a violation of the law.
“They’ve already violated travel restrictions under the Bayanihan law kaya pwede na arestuhin. So, a search is incidental to a valid arrest. Kaya sa Amerika, pinabubuksan pati and trunk ng sasakyan pag nasisita ng police dahil meron ng probable cause,” said Barbers.
The government has implemented the expanded enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon up to April 30 and imposed strict travel restrictions to arrest the spread of COVID-19. The first lockdown was imposed on March 15 up to April 15.
According to Barbers, he has received reports that drug traffickers, due to the strict travel restrictions and ECQ, are now trying hard to unload their drug stockpile into their street level traffickers to fill up the high demand of their “clients” particularly those based in Metro Manila.
“Base sa mga impormasyon kong natatanggap, may malaking shortage sa supply ng droga sa kalye dahil sa ECQ laban sa COVID-19. At nitong mga nakaraang araw, maraming sasakyan ang lakas loob na tumatawid sa PNP checkpoints dahil tinitikitan lang sila at di tsini-check kung ano ang karga - kung may kontrabando ba o wala - ng kanilang mga sasakyan,” Barbers explained.
“Noong Lunes, nabalitaan at napanood ko sa mga TV footages ang dami ng sasakyan na tumatawid sa PNP checkpoints. Sita, tiket at walang bukasan ng trunks ng mga sasakyan. Sa dami ng mga violators, malaking posibilidad na ang ilan dito ay pasok sa transport ng droga. Walang search, eh,” Barbers added.