CORDILLERA policemen have further intensified ‘search-and destroy’ operations against secret marijuana plantations in the region amid the possibility that money generated from cannabis production could be used to finance the campaign of some candidates in the May 9 local elections.
“Ang utos ko, maliliit pa lang ang mga marijuana eh sirain na para hindi na lalaki pa at mawala na rin ang pagkakataon na maibenta pa sa baba,” Cordillera Police Regional Office director, Brigadier General Ronald O. Lee told the Journal Group.
The official said they have also been ordered by Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, General Dionardo B. Carlos to step-up their drive against illegal marijuana cultivation to prevent their distribution to Metro Manila and other parts of the country and thwart efforts they could be used by some rogue politicians to finance their election campaign.
Gen. Carlos also raised the alarm bells over the possibility that illegal drug syndicates may finance the campaign of some candidates in exchange for protection once they are reelected.
Last October, Cordillera policemen arrested a dismissed member of the Northern Police District seeking a mayoralty post in Mountain Province for marijuana trafficking.
Brig. Gen. Lee said that 37-year old Sonny Kalaw turned out to be a former NPD member who was dismissed from the police force when he went on AWOL status after being investigated for extortion and kidnapping-for-ransom.
The official said that residents of Sabangan municipality were surprised to learn that Kalaw, who became a tricycle driver in their area had filed his candidacy for mayor. “Kung hindi siya nahuli, galing sa iligal drugs ang source ng kanyang pagkampanya tiyak,” said the official.
Lee that the suspect and his two cohorts yielded some P2.28 million worth of dried marijuana bricks when intercepted in Barangay Poblacion in Sadanga municipality while on board a black Toyota Hi-Ace Grandia.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chair, Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva said they also going after candidates with drug links. “Dismiss candidates who are involved in illegal drug activities. They do not deserve your votes. We urge the voting public to choose wisely their candidates,” he said.
“In all likelihood, re-electionists and prospective bets who act in collusion with drug syndicates might continue to lord it over the polls. Drug money may seep into the electoral process, funding the campaign of certain politicians seeking positions in the government in exchange for protection and self-preservation,” Villanueva added.
Last year, the Cordillera police’s stepped-up war on drugs resulted in the arrest of 541 wanted drug traffickers and the seizure of nearly P1.6 billion worth of marijuana leaves and shabu.
“The arrests and drug confiscation were made in line with our intensified crackdown against illegal drug trafficking and abuse in the entire region. Expect more successful anti-drug raids and arrests this year as we implement the order of Philippine National Police chief, General Dionardo B. Carlos to go all-out against drugs,” said Brig. Gen. Lee.
The official said that on record, they confiscated a total of ₱1,578 billion worth of prohibited drugs, majority of them fully-grown marijuana plants, seedlings and leaves which were all burned on site.
He said that records from the Cordillera Regional Operations Management Division showed that from January 1 to last December 31, 2021, the regional police force conducted 621 anti-illegal drug operations including buy-bust operations, anti-narcotics raids, marijuana eradication, implementation of search warrants, service of warrants of arrest and checkpoints and interdiction operations.
Those operations resulted in the arrest of 541 drug personalities including 242 in Baguio City; 126 in Benguet, 85 in Kalinga, 42 in Mountain Province, 39 in Abra, 5 in Ifugao and 2 in Apayao province.
Brig. Gen. Lee said that the past year saw the conduct of marijuana eradication operations which led in the uprooting and destruction of more than five million pieces of fully-grown marijuana plants and nearly 4.6 tons of dried cannabis plants.
The prohibited crops were burned on site after samples were taken for evidentiary purpose.
Brig. Gen. Lee supervised the conduct of the Cordillera police force’s Oplan: Herodotus which referred to the conduct of simultaneous marijuana eradication operations in Benguet, Kalinga, and Mountain Province.
Those operations resulted in the destruction of 72 secret marijuana plantation sites. A number of identified maintainers of the raided cannabis plantations have been charged in court for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The official has ordered concerned Cordillera police provincial offices to fully coordinate with the Regional Explosives and Canine Unit their operations to prevent marijuana smuggling in the region thru the random deployment of Narcotics Detection Dogs.
Those operations have led in the foiling of several attempts by drug syndicates to smuggle multi-million peso worth of dried marijuana bricks to Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon regions from Benguet, Kalinga and Mountain Province.
Last January 19, Cordillera policemen also destroyed an estimated P90 million worth of fully-grown marijuana plants and seedlings found growing in Bgy. Loccong and Bgy. Butbut Proper in Tinglayan, Kalinga.
The operations were supervised by Brig. Gen. Lee and Cordillera PRO Special Operations Group officer-in-charge, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Rey P. Natnat.
The same group of officers also burned over P4 million worth of marijuana plants in Benguet and Kalinga two weeks ago.
Four of the plantation areas were discovered in Sitio Proper, Bgy. Tacadang in Kibungan, Benguet where nearly 7,000 fully-grown marijuana plants and 10 kilograms of dried cannabis were found and burned on site by officers led by Lieutenant Efren Anapen.
The two other sites were found in Bgy. Bugnay in Tinglayan, Kalinga by members of the Kalinga Police Provincial Office, the Cordillera Police Regional Drug Enforcement Unit and Regional Special Operations Group and the 141st Special Action Company of the PNP Special Action Force.
Brig. Gen. Lee said that around 8,800 pieces of marijuana plants were burned on site.
The Cordillera police director said no arrests were made during the operations in the six communal areas although an investigation is still underway to identify the cultivators so that criminal charges can be filed against them duction in majority of Cordillera region was recorded in 2021 amid the stepped-up anti-criminality Brig. Gen. Lee lauded officers and men of the Cordillera police force for keeping the region a safe region to ‘live, work an visit’ amid the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sa kabuuan, dahil sa mas pinaigting na kampanya natin laban sa kriminalidad at sa tulong na rin at kooperasyon ng publiko ay nagkaroon ng pagbaba sa mga krimen na nagaganap sa ating rehiyon. Naway patuloy natin itong mas mapababa,” said the Cordillera police director from Philippine Military Academy ‘Tanglaw Diwa’ Class of 1992.