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So where are the drug lords?

More than two dozen suspected criminals linked to the illegal drugs trade have been killed by the police, ostensibly in firefights, just before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power, and right after.

However, what I find strange, very strange, in photos and video clips of such killings is that those killed — a few of them even had cardboard signs placed on their famished-looking bodies labeling them as drug lords — were wearing worn-out rubber slippers and basketball shorts typical of the urban poor’s clothes.

The raids were mostly conducted down dirty and dark slum alleys. I haven’t read any report of such raids done in Alabang subdivisions, or other upper and middle-class villages, not even in class B condos. Is the illegal drugs trade now a sole undertaking by the poor?

Yesterday’s front pages reported an alleged P900-million worth of shabu recovered from a resort in Cagayan province. But where were the drug lords who manufactured or smuggled these?

Is our country so poor that even our “drug lords” are really impoverished people themselves? Or, as is more likely, is Duterte’s anti-drug campaign hitting only small-time, neighborhood drug pushers?

Duterte yesterday disclosed the names of five police generals he claimed were coddling drug lords. But who are these drug lords? If Duterte could bravely name these generals, surely he could also name the drug lords.

Even drug lords now are poor? Left, one killed a few days ago. Right, Lim Seng, Chinese financier of illegal drug syndicates, executed four months after Martial Law was declared more than four decades ago.
Even drug lords now are poor? Left, one killed a few days ago. Right, Lim Seng, Chinese financier of illegal drug syndicates, executed four months after Martial Law was declared more than four decades ago.

Contrast the kind of anonymous drug criminals killed in supposed firefights or arrested by our police to the infamous drug lords in drug-infested countries in Latin America: Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, “King of Cocaine,” killed by the police in 1993; Mexico’s Amado Carillo, “El Senor de los Cielos,” killed in 1997; and the most famous nowadays because he spectacularly escaped two maximum-security prisons, Joaquin Guzman, or “El Chapo.”

The most well-known “drug lord” in this country — or perhaps the only one made public as such — was Lim Seng, who was executed four decades ago by firing squad four months after Martial Law was imposed, as sentenced by a military tribunal. That apparently was a masterstroke, a surgical one that ended the illegal drugs trade almost immediately, or at least as we were told in that era.

Why haven’t we seen or heard of other “Lim Sengs” since? Or have the succeeding “Lim Sengs” managed to put the highest levels of the police and officialdom under their thumb, and therefore, their cases have been concealed?

The illegal drugs scourge in the Philippines certainly couldn’t be a cottage industry as marijuana propagation, for instance, could be. Worse, it has had six years to flourish under the incompetent or complicit administration of President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd.

Shabu (methamphetamine), the most widely used illegal drug here, may be easy to manufacture, but it still needs chemists, with the laboratory requiring huge capital to set up and protect. A large part of the shabu here is imported from China, and therefore, requires a powerful, well-financed network, which as in the nature of crime, can only have, to use that term more precisely, drug lords.

Drug lord, the Jaguar
The closest there was to a real drug lord neutralized by the police recently was one Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz, whom reports alleged was the “second biggest drug lord in Central Visayas.” That he was the Philippine version of the Latin American drug lords was demonstrated by the attendance of at least a thousand people in his funeral procession in Las Piñas last month, more than a week after he was killed by the police on June 18.

If he was a real drug lord, it is strange why the police didn’t boast about this feat. Indeed, strangely, the police claimed it was when they were serving a warrant of arrest against another “drug personality” in Las Piñas when they, instead, encountered “Jaguar” of Cebu. Here was a top drug lord from the Visayas, “accidentally” found and killed in Las Piñas, a few days after Duterte assumed power? Something’s fishy there. There are rumors that this “drug lord” was ordered killed by ranking police officials who were his patrons, to make sure that he wouldn’t spill the beans under the new administration.

Duterte and his associates have also alleged that the drug lords are actually serving life-sentences and are incarcerated in the Bilibid National Prison – which is a terrible indictment of the past President, especially his justice secretary, Leila de Lima, who was in charge of the penitentiary.

This could be true, but it is a stretch to believe that the country’s entire illegal drug scourge is run from the national prison.

Or, are Duterte and his bulldog, the new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald de la Rosa, failing in the required intelligence work? Unless they get the support of the PNP’s intelligence services or the uncompromised operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), these two from Davao, which is nearly a thousand kilometers south of metro Manila, the real center of drug lords, will go about trying to dismantle this scourge blindly.

I suspect that because of Duterte’s repeated statements during the election campaign that his priority would be to kill the drug lords, the real culprits may have already gone abroad simply to escape the storm of Duterte’s campaign.

That, of course, would be good enough.

But unless the drug lords are really neutralized, and Duterte and de la Rosa have found out how they have established their criminal network with the backing of corrupt police and government official so they could decimate their operations, these criminals will be back, slowly and quietly.

This is possible, especially when Duterte’s focus shifts elsewhere, or when he gets under intense fire – as I think he definitely will be – from the oligarchs whose interests have become threatened by the iron hand of his government.

If Duterte doesn’t capture — or kill — the real drug lords soon, as the corpses of urban poor drug addicts and small-time pushers pile up on the metropolis’ streets, his political support would wane rapidly.


This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. Winifredo Alfelor

    I hope and pray that this war by Duterte against drug lords and criminality will not end up with the notorious and world famous Filipino negative habit… “Ningas Kugon”

  2. me

    kung makapagsalita ka kaya mo ung gingawa ni duterte. ikaw kaya lumaban sa mga drug lords!lam mo ba kung ano ung sinasakripisyo nia labanan lang ang droga?!ha! buhay lang nmn niya! isa ka lang sa mga walang kwentang pilipino na imbis na sumuporta tumutuligsa pa!amp

    1. cynthia estrada

      Insults and put downs are not intelligent arguments.

  3. mylhiz

    Duterte is just our new elected president.. what do you expect? That right away he can clean up those mess in just a week.. why dont you just wait for the outcome of his actions.. you have this so called “atat” attitude.. atleast we can see that he is doing his job,. Relax..don’t be in a hurry.. he dont have a super powers..

  4. Felix Sevidad

    Some other thinks users and drug pushers are small fry, but hey! most of the crimes happens when the criminals are high on drugs. The protectors and drug lords are indeed a big fry, but first the authority should go first to the so called small fry to extract some information to catch the so called big fry.

    1. cynthia estrada

      Crime and Drugs are not our problem. Poverty is. If he can solve poverty there will be less crime and drugs. If he keeps killing people like this, the relatives of those people he killed will get mad at him. Especially those who are innocent and there are several already.
      There will be reprisals.

  5. Ernesto Dela Cruz

    I also hope that Pres. Duterte will ‘clean’ the corrupt govt offices, such as BIR, BoC, LTFRB, LTO, etc. In LTO alone, fixers are shamelessly offering their services to would-be applicants for driving license. Same is true for car owners who wish to register their vehicle. These fixers cannot flourish unless they have connections inside the LTO office itself. Even the DFA has its share of fixers outside the DFA grounds. Why are fixers there? Same answer as in the case of LTO.

  6. Marlon

    Corrupt officials and goverment employees should also be killed. Should also be salvaged. But why not? Mga maliliit lamang ang nakikitang pinapatay. Bkait hindi hulihin at pagpapatayin din ang mga kurakot na mga opisyal ng pamahalaan. Sa milyon-milyon na kanilang ibinubulsa, libo-libong pamilya ang naaapektuha at lalo pang naghihirap kaya sila naghahanap-buhay ng ilegal para makakain sa isang araw. Kung walang mga corrupt, walang milyon-milyon na pera ng mamamayan ang maibubulsa, maraming mahihirap ang matutulungan ng gov’t na magkaroon ng hanap-buhay na marangal. Putulin ang ugat, at ang mga ugat na iyan ay ang mga matataas na corrupt na politicians at mga drug lords.

  7. arthur keefe

    Justice here usually applies only to the poor. If Duterte can change that he will have made a very major change for the better.

  8. joel

    President Duterte’s administration is just a week old. It would be too much to expect arrest of drug lords this early. These people have the luxuries in life, money, cars, phones, connections, etc., to make their escape easy. Too early to judge. Why not wait til the 6 months time frame given by Present Duterte to end or suppress this drug menace. At least for now, we can see a flicker of light that is leading us to the end of the tunnel as thousands of drug users, pushers voluntarily surrendered themselves to authorities. This never happened in the previous administrations. This alone is already a huge accomplishment!

    1. Anton

      I agree. At this early stages of duterte administration more than a dozen of drug dealers and pushers have been killed. And many more surrendering. That’s a big accomplishment. Just wait and be patient and more is coming. Duterte and bato need to double their security and avoid going to many gatherings. Let the VP and others go to those funtions instead.

    2. cynthia estrada

      Several people killed as drug addict are innocent. Also almost 100 people have been killed but none of them are drug lords, they are just poor small time drug pushers. Are these the results and accomplishments you think deserve merit?

  9. Ranger

    We are already happy to see that something is already being done by Pres. Duterte about the drug problem and we know that in a matter of time makukuha na ang mga drug lords. after this, illegal gambling naman which is being run by some congressmen – NIR 18 as an example, and protected by the policere gional and provincial directors and the chief of police.

    what we want to see now is the crackdown on corrupt government employees specially sa bir, customs, lto, ltfrb, immigration, to name a few government offices. AT ANG PINA KA IMPORTANTE – ANG MGA CONGRESSMEN AT SENATORS NA KASALI SA DAP AND PDAF, SI ABNOY AQUINO, BUTH ABAD AND FAMILY.


  10. Vino

    What to do (before & after)?

    For users after rehab? what’s next? give them job or livelihood or whatever….what?

    For the youth…not to become users….what plan/s? education for free & sport mindsetting … or… massive information campaign about the evil it will do…what?

    WHAT? Tell me….tell them…tell us….

    1. Baddy

      YES, give those who were “salvaged”, killed without due process, killed, simply by mere suspicion, JOBS after they are already dead. What a brilliant idea! Snark.

  11. Cil

    Its just 5 days since the president assumed office
    He promised to eradicate drug problem within six months…
    Its too early to ask where are these drug lords 5 days into his office.
    If they leave early, thats good. If they dont then we will see more clashes between them and the law enforcers.
    The surge in killings “before” he assumed office was clearly a cleansing move by the protectors to clean their tracks, these is futile however since they have already been marked right after Duterte highlighted drugs as one of his main target.
    He was almost gunend down during his rally in San Pablo because it is a lair of a big drug lord, this is among the narc politics he has reiterated in his talks.
    write about this after 100days, by then much has already been unraveled..
    for in this administration, we finally have a leader who is there only because he has a job to do. and that is to serve the Filipino people.

    1. Totoy bato

      Hi Sir, I agree on this.. If SPC mayor is not in the list of 23 mayos involve i wouldn’t believe this campaign anymore.

  12. kyle

    Unless the 5 million (at least! ) pinoy drug addicts stop snorting that white shit, the lines will still be open. Cut the supply. eliminate the supplier, then those drug lords controlling the market wont have anything to sell.

  13. Junadan

    The observation of R. Tiglao that no notorious known drug lord has recently been arrested or killed after the assumption of office by Duterte is strangely clearly true. Those killed and arrested in various police encounters were drug users and pushers but media or police are only reporting the small-time street thugs (users and pushers) and relegated the drug lords to just a mere “operational or shadow targets” to keep the “drug sloganeering” alive for the sake of Duterte’s criminality drug drive. If Duterte knows the PNP generals who allegedly are drug lords protector, Duterte must perforce knows and have legal proof and evidence to impute crime (attribute complicity in protecting drug manufacturing and distribution of illegal m), against these police generals, Duterte,must equally knows and have same evidence against these drug lords. Duterte must ultimately divulge and arrests these police generals and the drug lords,,if Duterte is dead-serious in his illegal drug campaign. Otherwise, short of arrests or take downs of these drug lords , Duterte’s sincere credibility will irretrievably suffer and popularity with the margInalized and peace-loving citizenry will vanish like a “bubles in the air”.
    Although it is just a short time Duterte assumed office of the president, he must, however act swiftly and with utmost dispatch and fast before these drug lords disappear and leave the country before they are taken down and someday return with more weapons of mass destruction!

    1. Felix Sevidad

      Duterte is not a fool to expose these protectors without a sufficient evidence, remember he was once a prosecutor and the work of the prosecutor is to gather evidence enough to convict the accused. Of course Duterte’s longing is to arrest and put these drug lords lockup in jail or get killed. Duterte needs these generals to extractt all necessary information before rounding up these drug lords.

  14. Rudi Miranda

    Thank you! Right on! Perhaps, the expose’ of the genuine drug lord(s)will come later with government public officials [elected or not] in tow. ‘Wheels of justice grind slow but grind fine.’ Sun Tzu

  15. Bayan

    Catching the protectors and dealing with the symptoms (actual users, pushers) the ground people is the right step. I don’t want to spill these brilliance of strategy unfolding before my eyes… One thing is for sure there would be no waning of support for Duterte whatever media says. This is the best, bravest performance I have yet to see of a President in my lifetime.

  16. egay

    Simple.If you name them then they will have time to lay low, hide or escape abroad. Wait lang.

  17. ricelander

    If anyone wants a preview of the war against drugs, he needs only look at the war against alcohol in the days of the so-called The Prohibition. Alcohol is the equivalent of illegal drugs of today. Why did the authorities eventually had give up on the prohibition of alcohol? Same social and economic forces at work and the Law of Supply and Demand.

  18. To the Max

    Patience is the name of the game. Yesterday, in BF. 2 foreigners wew caught manufacturing Shaba worth billions of pesos. Duterte has 6 months plus 1 day. There are about 100 dead due to drugs. By the 6 months, the numbers will reach 1000 plus. The rate of killing is increasing. I pray that minimal collateral killings. People that were with drug pushers gunned down. A note to all Pilipinos, do not go near drug dens and be friends with drug pushers. You might be one of the collateral dead.

  19. ernie del rosario

    No ! Maghihintay kami hanggang malipol ni Duterte ang mga ito. After all he is just 6 days old in his job. And after all also, Aquino did not do anything about it for six solid years and we never heard anything similar to what you are saying here from the past administration or the yellow media.

    1. Mar

      Duterte was mayor of Davao City for 22 years di pa rin nalipol. You expect him to do it in 6 years sa buong bansa? Wala na sa lugar pagka-bilib mo sa presidente mo.

      1. Jong

        Di talaga malilipol its just suppression

        Ang mga peste sa bahay pag wala kang ginagawa dumadami ng dumadami

        Pero kapag may ginawa ka mababawasan

  20. Jessie Corrales

    Mr. Tiglao, if you know drug lords in the rich subdivisions and condos, please inform Duterte or de la Rosa. It’s so easy for you to demand this after 5 days in office. Do your part if you have info.

  21. leon

    How come yung mga pasaway shouting democracy, human rights, freedom ek ek like Cheta Rozales,yellow media did not rally for Lim Seng that time, I wonder

    1. tagaDumantay

      Didn’t you read nor understand the article. It was martial law period at that time. You will not risk your life for a drug lord that does not care about you nor you have gain from his illegal means.

  22. Leodegardo Pruna

    Either the generals spill the beans on the drug lords or they themselves are after eliminating the supposed drug lords. God save the Philippines.

  23. Lex

    Is not a matter of what drug lords wore when they captured. Have you seen what El Chapo Guzman wore when he was recaptured?

    1. Mar

      Correct, but the point is no big-time drug lord has been killed or captured yet while hundreds of small-time pushers have been eliminated already. It’s the same in Davao when Digong was mayor there. Not a single big-time drug lord or smuggler was killed.

    2. Maria Farhi

      El Chapo was well built, healthy, with decent clothes and jewelries when captured. His daughter lives good and rich in Los Angeles.

  24. litocruz

    President Duterte set his goal and limit in his campaign to stop drugs. We hope that drug lords will decay who cannot bear branches to flower. Naming some Generals
    who were vetted as protector to drugs is probably the start. The direction to solve the problem is very clear, like a tree, no branches no flowers.
    True there are no lord yet mentioned but that vetting is all about. How many days
    had passed?
    On corruption in the government, vetting the members of the Commission on Audit
    will be a good start. Why, because corruption will be very difficult in government if they will not allow it….an issue which need to be tackled when they change the constitution.

  25. fyi

    Duterte and his associates have also alleged that the drug lords are actually serving life-sentences and are incarcerated in the Bilibid National Prison – which is a terrible indictment of the past President, especially his justice secretary, Leila de Lima, who was in charge of the penitentiary.

    De Lima only arrested 3 opposition senators for abuse of the pork barrel fund out of the hundreds who gave the people’s money to Napoles

    De Lima did not arrest any of the murderers of the SAF 44

    And yet she was elected to the senate as if she was something besides a lapdog of Aquino.

  26. Julian Tulay

    At least, it’s a good start, this users are the collateral damage, when there is no user, there will be no pushers , no drug lords and no graft and corruption in the law enforcement. Drug Lords will have their time.

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