By Genalyn Kabiling
The government must conduct a “thorough investigation” on the smuggling of illegal drugs using container vans by suspected foreign syndicates before blaming the Chinese for the offense, President Duterte said Sunday.
The President said it is unfair to immediately blame the importers, including Chinese nationals, for the smuggled goods without a comprehensive investigation.
“Kawawanaman ‘yung mg atao [I sympathize with the people] especially the legit importers and their containers are taken advantage of by criminal gangs so there has to be a thorough investigation before we start to blame mostly Chinese,” Duterte said during the launch of the new book of former President Fidel V. Ramos at the Manila Hotel.
Duterte emphasized the need for presumption of innocence on the part of the ship’s owners and importers before authorities conclude their involvement in the illegal drug trade.
“We have the cooperative international intelligence sharing and we can have that. So what’s more important really is not to drag along innocent people into a criminal case which we are not sure of,” he said.
The President acknowledged that some international drug cartels have taken advantage of the container circuit to smuggle illegal drugs into the country. He said the drugs are usually placed under the steel container’s ceiling and covered with high-grade plastic to avoid detection.
“I think this dope situation in Southeast Asia is being run by the Triad of Asia. And Sinaloa it’s doing its thing, the Medellin Cartel, using the network of containers,” he said.
“That is why do not conclude right away that the owner of the container is the smuggler of the drugs. The smugglers and the Sinaloa have a captive audience inside,” he added
He also said the country’s “vicious” drug trade has become a P215 billion annual industry “all reducing my countrymen into slavery to a drug called shabu(methamphetamine hydrochloride).”
The syndicates no longer have drug laboratories in the country, Duterte revealed amid the intensified anti-drug campaign. The illegal drugs, however are reportedly being cooked in the middle of the ocean and dumped at sea to be picked up by drug lords.
“So I said with a little bit of hubris but which was really needed to make people understand and maybe to realize the gravity of the situation. And I said: Do not destroy my country because I will kill you and do not destroy the young people, our only asset,” he said.
“They are the assets — they are the human beings that would take care of us when we get old,” he added.
Much more to do
The President congratulated former President Ramos whom he called “my idol” for the success of his book and pleaded, “please stay around for another 100 years, we need you.”
Duterte assured Ramos that his government will continue to implement measures to attain UN goals, particularly in fighting poverty and hunger.
“Mr. President, I assure you that this administration is exerting its efforts, ultimate efforts even utmost in making more progress to achieve these development goals not because it is mandated by the UN but more importantly because it is for the good of the nation, the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
“We have made great strides and remain unrelenting in our efforts to address the root causes of poverty and hunger, unemployment, corruption, criminality, dangerous drugs, endemic disease, environmental degradation and climate change,” he added.
Ramos, for his part thanked President Duterte for attending his book launch and seized the opportunity to remind him that “much more to do for our beloved Philippines than what he is doing right now.”
He also said the younger Filipinos expect Duterte and his crew “to save lives and enhance our people’s future instead of using force and weapons to do your job.”
“This particular moment in our nation’s history presents a wonderful opportunity for PRRD to receive the baton of responsible governance and leadership from the Filipino people who have done their share of nation building,” he said.
In, reply Duterte told Ramos, “Although you might not agree with all the things that I have done or will be doing, let me assure you that the light at the end of the tunnel is my country. And I will do anything, anything for the Filipino people.”