House resumes probe of mega “shabu” lab in Catanduanes

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August 11 – The House committee on dangerous drugs chaired by Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (2nd District, Surigao del Norte) this week resumed its inquiry into the possible proliferation of shabu labs across the country which are being used as “jump-off” points in the distribution of illegal drugs in the country.

The inquiry is being done on the basis of House Resolution 585, authored by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes), directing the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Office of Transport Security (OTS), and Land Transportation Office (LTO) to intensify and coordinate their efforts to suppress the entry of illegal drugs in the country.

Sarmiento said there is a great possibility that island-provinces across the country are being used to serve as shabu labs and/or jump-off for the distribution of illegal drugs as they are relatively secluded and/or strategically located. He said last November 26, 2016, authorities seized a shabu lab posing as a warehouse in Barangay Palta, Virac, Catanduanes wherein several apparatus and chemicals principally used for the manufacture of methamphetamine were also found.

Barbers called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other drug enforcement agencies to come up with much stricter measures to prevent the entry of illegal drugs in the country.

“Dapat mahuli natin ‘yung malalaking isda o yung mga big-time drug pushers,” said Barbers.

Barbers said during the first and second hearings on the discovery of the shabu mega lab in Virac, Catanduanes, committee members met with local government officials and were briefed on the drug situation by the regional offices of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The lawmakers also held an ocular inspection of the shabu lab in Barangay Palta, Virac and conducted a public hearing at the auditorium of the Catanduanes State University.

“Hopefully with the information that we are able to get from this hearing, we will be able to come up already with a committee report to recommend the filing of remedial legislation,” said Barbers.

Sarmiento said the inquiry is a tool to help legislate wisely and determine whether there is a need to improve existing laws or enact new or remedial legislation.

“Kami pong mga mambabatas dito, ayaw po namin ng drawing lang. Gusto po namin aksyon at solusyon,” said Sarmiento, chairman of the House committee on transportation.

“We want the real issues investigated. We want the whole truth exposed. We want all liable people arrested and convicted. We want justice done. We want peace and order restored. And we want to be totally and permanently drug free by effectively preventing illegal drugs to gain a foothold again in the peaceful island province of Catanduanes,” said Sarmiento.

He said that there are already fake news circulating in social media linking him to the local drug trade matrix.

“Buti na lang po at alam ng mga kababayan ko kung ano ang katotohanan at ano ang kasinungalingan,” Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento also called on all government agencies in charge of logistics and transport of goods such as the PCG, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), LTO, and OTS to suppress illegal drugs trafficking in the country.

Rep. Rodel Botocabe (Party-list, AKO Bicol) agreed with Sarmiento on the need for lawmakers to improve existing laws or enact new or remedial legislation.

Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. (Party-list, AKO Bicol) urged his colleagues to craft the necessary remedial legislation as part of their efforts to help President Duterte who is faced with an arduous task to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.

“Kagaya ng Customs, pinakamalaking nahuli P6.4 billion. Ito namang sa Catanduanes tinatawag mega shabu, parang wala pong patutunguhan. Parang hirap po ang Presidente mag-isa, nandito kami tumutulong. Ang nahuli maliliit. Itong mega na problema parang walang nahuli. Nawawala pa po. Kaya sana po seryosohin natin. Tinatanong saan ba nanggagaling itong droga? Ang sagot nanggagaling sa China. May nahuli ngang shabu wala naman makakasuhan, wala naman makukulong. Pinaglalaruan po ba natin ito? I beg you, my dear colleagues, please take this seriously. Sana ang mga kasama natin sa hudikatura, members of the national police and armed forces tulungan po nyo kami dito sa Kongreso gumawa ng batas para sa mga kabataan natin na sana huwag silang malululong sa droga,” said Garbin.

Meanwhile, the Virac Municipal Police Station informed the committee that it filed last April 10 and 11 two cases of violation of Section 11 (Possession of Drugs) and Section 12 (Possession of Drugs and Apparatus) of Republic Act 9165.

Charges were filed against Paulo Uy, Jayson Gonzales Uy, Lorenzo Pinera II a.k.a “Kidot”, Paolo Wee Palisoc, Phung Yuan Estorco, Sheng Wang, Tore, John Doe and Peter Doe before the office of the Provincial Prosecution Office.

The committee has been probing also on the 604 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu valued at P6.4 billion smuggled from China and which allegedly breezed through undetected in the express lane of the Bureau of Customs (BOC). / EAG – HOR-pr

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