President seeks US help in curbing PH drug trade
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday urged the United States to help the Philippines control drug smuggling, blaming criminal gangs based in Hong Kong and Taiwan for the use of the country as a shipping hub for drugs.
In a speech at the 56th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Constitution Association, Mr. Duterte also said illegal drugs had funded the seizure by pro-Islamic State group terrorists of large parts of Marawi City in May.
More than 800 people have died in the conflict, which Mr. Duterte said was triggered by an attempt to arrest a drug suspect, who he did not identify.
“The Philippines is a transshipment [point] of shabu to America,” Mr. Duterte said, using the local term for crystal meth. “[I]t behooves upon America to work closely with the Republic of the Philippines, especially on this serious matter.”
“We are flooded with drugs. This is the first time I would reveal it … the Philippines today is a client state of the Bamboo Triad. They have taken over the operations in Southeast Asia,” he said.
He said he could not blame China for the drugs being shipped to the Philippines because Filipinos also produced illegal drugs.
Mr. Duterte, who was elected 16 months ago on promises to fight corruption, crime and drugs, said the so-called 14-K triad in Hong Kong and the Taiwan-based Bamboo triad were using the Philippines as a transshipment point.
He, however, gave no details of the source of his information.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (Teco), the de facto embassy of Taiwan in Manila, issued a statement on Wednesday saying Taiwan had never been a source of drugs used in the Philippines.
“According to available [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency] statistics, most of the drugs is actually manufactured in the Philippines, not overseas,” Teco said.
It reiterated its commitment in joining the Philippine government in combating illegal drugs.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs and a former chief of the Philippine National Police, said he had no information that Taiwan was now the main source of drugs available in the Philippines.
Semblance of truth
Lacson, however, said that there was a “semblance of truth” in Mr. Duterte’s claim, as the P6.4 billion worth of shabu that slipped past the Bureau of Customs in May had been allegedly shipped to the Philippines by a Taiwanese.
He said Mr. Duterte, in saying Bamboo triad, was probably referring to the Bamboo Gang, which is based in Taiwan.
The United States has said it supports the Philippines’ antidrug efforts but has also urged the Philippines to respect human rights and the rule of law in its operations.
Police have killed more than 3,800 people in drug raids and unknown assailants have murdered thousands more since Mr. Duterte launched his war on drugs upon taking office in June last year.
In another speech earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Duterte said the Bamboo triad had gone international and had been using the Philippines as a hub for shipping drugs to other countries.
Mr. Duterte also reiterated that he would not tolerate the killing of innocent people.
He said he respected the Constitution and due process.
“When it comes to this country, I could be the most brutal but I do not lose sight of the Constitution,” he said.
“I have been a prosecutor, I know what due process means,” he added.
If there was a policeman who would say that he ordered police to execute criminals, he would step down, he said. —With reports from Philip C. Tubeza, Christine O. Avendaño, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Jhesset O. Enano and the wires
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