New PDEA chief vows to go after 'puppet masters' behind drug syndicates

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — Despite billions of pesos worth of drug hauls this month, recently-appointed anti-drug czar Wilkins Villanueva vowed on Monday to catch the heads of drug syndicates.

Following drug raids in Marilao, Bulacan and Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in Parañaque City last week, Villanueva said the arrest of Chinese national Yuwen Cai in Bulacan and the killing of his son Jin Long Cai in Parañaque are only the tip of the iceberg.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief said illegal drugs will keep pouring in as long as the so-called "puppet masters" of drug syndicates are not arrested. He said the PDEA and Philippine National Police will work to arrest the masterminds who are either based in the country or abroad.

"Expect, in the near future, na talagang ito ang titirahin natin," he stressed in a media briefing. "Hindi lamang ang bodegero, kung hindi itong puppet masters. Some of them are here in the Philippines while some of them are nasa labas."

[Translation: Expect that we will chase after the puppet masters. Some of them are here in the Philippines while some of them are based outside the country.]

The Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs has been criticized by human rights advocates for killing or going after small-time drug users and pushers, but not big-time drug lords.

About 756 kilos of crystal meth or shabu worth over P5.1 billion were seized in Bulacan on June 4. Two days later, more than P244 million worth of illegal drugs were confiscated after police killed two suspects in a shootout.

PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa described the recent large-scale drug hauls as "unprecedented," adding the two anti-drug operations are most likely related as the narcotics packaging are identical. He said the drugs may have been imported since there are likely no more large-scale drug laboratories in the country.

Dangerous Drug Board Chairman Catalino Cuy said it was possible that the drug hauls are from an "inventory." He added that the drug activities will most likely continue even as the country is under community quarantine due to the pandemic.

"Ang mga syndicates na yan are trying to recover loss earnings nila during the 2.5 months of ECQ," he pointed out. "Kaya they're trying to catch up with their inventory, na madispose nila iyan."

[Translation: Syndicates are trying to make up their loss for the 2.5 months of ECQ. So they are trying to dispose of the drugs.]