By: Reinir Padua
MANILA, Philippines – A week after raiding a shabu laboratory in Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) raided two more drug laboratories in the same barangay Friday night.
Unlike in the Jan. 6 raid, wherein five Chinese were arrested in the one-hectare property on Acacia street, the two properties raided Friday were unmanned, PDEA Director General Jose Gutierrez Jr. said.
“They were no longer there,” Gutierrez said in an interview at midnight yesterday, minutes after they swooped down on the two facilities.
Last Friday’s operation was prompted by tips from residents following the raid on a one-hectare property there on Jan. 6. “There were those who called us up and even sent text messages. They were suspicious of Chinese nationals seen in those two other houses,” Gutierrez said.
The agency secured a search warrant and raided the houses at 119 Kanlaon street and at 536 Country Club Drive.
At the Kanlaon street house, agents recovered laboratory equipment, assorted chemicals and approximately three kilos of finished shabu. They seized from the house on Country Club Drive laboratory equipment, chemicals, and chemical residue. According to Gutierrez, the two facilities are medium-scale laboratories that could each produce 10 kilos of shabu per cycle, which takes two to three days.
PDEA-National Capital Region director Pedrito Magsino said in a television interview that they have the names and photos of the ones who have been renting the two houses since September last year. He said the owner of one the houses is Filipino, while the other house is owned by a Chinese.
Gutierrez said he has a “strong feeling” that the three shabu laboratories are connected, especially if the Chinese seen in the two houses were also from Hong Kong, just like the ones arrested in the Jan. 6 raid.
He said the stench from the shabu manufacturing process, though it was strong in both houses, could not be detected from the outside. “Once you open the doors, it’s only then you are greeted by the stench,” he said.
Gutierrez said they also found empty packs of Novahis-D, a brand of cold medicine, in the garbage bags taken out of the two compounds. “Those collecting the garbage must have found it unusual,” he said.
He said the medicine contains ephedrine, an important chemical used in the production of shabu. The PDEA chief said while local drug lab operators just smuggle ephedrine, those running the two shabu laboratories may have extracted the ephedrine from the tablets, which are manufactured in Pakistan.
“This is very common in Thailand and Korea… But this was the first time I saw it here,” he said.
Barangay officials in hot water
Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro directed barangay officials of Ayala Alabang to explain why they should not be sanctioned for the three drug laboratories operating “right under their noses.”
San Pedro’s spokesman, Omar Acosta, said these officials, led by barangay chairman Alfred Burgos, may be sanctioned for being remiss in their duties. He said San Pedro, following the Jan. 6 raid, directed barangay officials to closely coordinate with the homeowners’ association to come up with measures to prevent organized crime syndicates from operating in the area.
“The mayor finds the security protocol ineffective,” Acosta said.
Burgos said the Ayala Alabang Village Association is now reviewing the processes of tenants and agents involved in leasing properties in the village. – With Perseus Echeminada