The need to pursue the war on drugs
The Manila Times
I N President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s very first State of the Nation Address (SONA), three crucial elements were missing: the government program on counterinsurgency; the war on drugs; and the campaign against graft and corruption. A religious leader, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy raised these issues in a morning radio program aired over his own station, prompting one of his anchors to walk out. Honestly, I agree with Pastor Quiboloy. Especially with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict claiming that the Left is now almost on the brink of collapse, the government should unrelentingly carry out the anti-insurgency campaign until they are totally annihilated. As the campaign against corruption will likely be a perpetual war to be waged not only by the present administration but by all those incoming as well, it seems a victory on the war against illegal drugs might be more achievable. If only it could be carried out more seriously and aggressively. A day before PBBM’s SONA, we were shocked to hear of a respected doctor taking the life of a former mayor of a town in Basilan. The reason: He accused the mayor of involvement in the illegal drug trade in their town. But what bothers me more at this time is the continued smuggling of illegal drugs into the country and how the suspected culprits behind these escape prosecution and punishment. Remember the billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs discovered under a conveyor machine which supposedly passed through the x-ray machines of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) in 2017? Were the people allegedly involved in this multibillion-pesos illegal drug smuggling brought to court? Haven’t heard of one. Well, two years after that, another illegal drug smuggling attempt at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) was foiled. On May 31, 2019, exactly 276.344 kilograms of shabu estimated to be worth P1.87 billion were seized at the MICP by a team of operatives from the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Coast Guard. The illegal narcotics were concealed in a shipment of plastic resins covered by proper import documents to avoid detection. Charged for the illegal drug smuggling attempt was the owner of the digital app Lyka, Bernard Lu Chong, a Filipino businessman behind the controversial media platform Lyka Philippines and Filipino shoe brand World Balance. Lu Chong has also been tagged as one of the owners of Fortuneyield Cargo Services Corp., the company which was the assigned consignee of the illegal drug shipment. He is also listed as the owner of E-Sports outfit Bren Esports, a digital firm called Synergy88, and is the country’s franchise owner of the Tim Horton’s coffee shop chain. However, World Balance, through his brother Barnaby Chong, has denied that Bernard is a co-owner of World Balance although he admits that the company is a threegeneration family business. Tim Horton also denies that Lu Chong owns its Philippine franchise but in previous interviews he has been shown to be bragging about his businesses. Also indicted along with Bernard were Chinese Xu Zhi Jian alias Jacky Co, Fe Tamayosa, Alvin Bautista, Jane Abello Castillo, Carlo Dale Sueta, Abraham Torrecampo, Arwin Jay Caparros, Leonard Sucaldito, Mark Leo Magpayo, Brian Pabilona and Francis C.K. Young. Lu Chong’s lawyers filed two motions for consideration dated Sept. 25, 2021 and Dec. 22, 2021, questioning his indictment by Judge Emilio Legaspi of Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 35 in connection with the attempted smuggling of shabu that was foiled by the law enforcement authorities. His motion was denied last April 29 by Judge Reynaldo Alhambra of Manila RTC Branch 53 to whom the case was re-raffled. In a two-page resolution, Alhambra said his court “finds no compelling reason to differ from the order dated Sept. 13, 2021, issued by Hon. Judge Emilio Rodolfo Legaspi 3rd. Presiding judge of Regional Trial Court of Manila, finding probable cause as there is sufficient evidence to show that a crime has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof.” Also, a seven-page resolution issued by the Task Force AntiOrganized Crime Division of the Department of Justice, headed by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, declared probable cause to file drug smuggling charges against Lu Chong because of his role as the general manager of Fortuneyield. Before the drug shipment seizure, Lu Chong was also named by the BoC as one of those who were involved in the smuggling of 105 containers worth P69,675,171 and was charged with violation of Sections 1401 and 1424 of Republic Act 10863, or the “Customs Modernization and Tariff Act of 2016.” With the issuance of an arrest warrant against him, the National Bureau of Investigation’s international operations division chief Joey Moran said that they are now on the lookout for Lu Chong as he urged him to surrender immediately to any law enforcement unit so that he can defend himself in court. But where is Lu Chong now? According to sources, he is now hiding in the United States. Which then brings us to the question: Who facilitated his escape? He has been charged twice for illegal drugs smuggling attempts and yet he was able to travel out of the country and escape prosecution? Mr. President, it is for these reasons you need to pursue the war on illegal drugs. No need to order your enforcers to add to the body count, just a serious and aggressive campaign. As manifested in how the culprits behind this most heinous crime evade prosecution and punishment, the illegal drug trade runs deep. I may not be a fan of the past administration, but at least it scored big in this aspect. Please don’t let it go to waste.