Sinaloa drug cartel’s cocaine now in Philippines?

November 02, 2018
Oscar D. Albayalde
Oscar D. Albayalde

COCAINE has really no strong market in the Philippines but the arrest of a Manila policeman caught sniffing the banned drugs in powder form has prompted law enforcement authorities to again evaluate the possibility that the notorious Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel has been smuggling the drugs into the country.

On February 25, 2014, agents of the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency raided a cockfighting farm in Lipa City in Batangas which turned out to be a front for the manufacture of methamphetamine or ‘ice.’

That raid which also led to the arrest of three affiliates of the deadly Sinaloa drug cartel sparked a lengthy investigation into the presence in the country of one of Mexico’s most powerful organized crime groups.

Yesterday, it was the turn of PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Benigno B. Durana Jr. to say that the arrest of Police Officer 1 Redentor Bautista while sniffing cocaine inside the toilet of a bar in Taguig City may be an indication that indeed, the Sinaloa syndicate has already been operating in the country.

"I think this is indicative of the fact that the Sinaloa cartel has probably infiltrated the drug industry in our country that's why the President said we must be relentless and chilling in our campaign, the war on drugs... it's far from over," Durana told an ANC interview.

Durana was merely echoing President Duterte’s statement in 2016 that the Sinaloa drug ring had been active in the country already.

PO1 Bautista, a member of the Manila Police District Station 1, reportedly feigned sickness so that he could be allowed to go on sick leave while the entire police force was on full alert to secure the observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day’ this week.

He claimed that a plastic sachet containing .4 grams of cocaine seized from his possession was merely given to him although he refused to name names, prompting an angry National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar to berate him in public and warn that he would be jailed and subjected to dismissal proceedings.

PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde had emphasized again and again that there would be no compromise when it comes to drug-using and drug-dealing policemen and all those who were arrested for committing the offense would be fired from the organization.

Durana emphasized that the police force would not tolerate erring cops, adding that Bautista's case does not represent the whole PNP.

"We have to state this clearly that the Philippine National Police, while we're tough on crimes, we are far tougher against our erring personnel. This, I would say, is a fluke... he doesn't represent the entire service personnel who are professional, honest and dedicated," the official said.

However, the PNP and the PDEA would have to work really harder to determine the source of the suspected cocaine confiscated from the cop’s possession.  Small volume of cocaine have been seized from users arrested in the past and a huge volume of the drug in vacuum-sealed packages have been found floating on the high seas or at seashores by fishermen in Samar and parts of Quezon provinces.

Officials also told the Journal Group that there is a need to do more hard work to stop the Sinaloa drug cartel from expanding their presence in the country. Indeed, there is a need to counter the possibility that the cartel could transform the country into another base of operation.

Named after the state on Mexico's Pacific Coast where it was formed in 1989, the cartel's heartland extends from Sinaloa to Mexico's Durango and Chihuahua states although is is also known to operate in locations as diverse as Russia, Australia and Sierra Leone.

The group's leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 but was captured during a pre-dawn operation in Mazatlan, Mexico in 2014.

Apart from the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, members of the Hong Kong Triad and Chinese drug groups as well as West African drug rings are known for their illegal drug activities in the country.

Officials said that a few years ago, Chinese drug manufacturers transferred their operations in the country in the aftermath of a massive government crackdown against them, leading to raids on over 70 secret drug factories in China and the arrest of nearly 180 suspects.