By Anelle Juego-Tayao
Unlike the posh villages in Makati City, a high-class subdivision in Muntinlupa City has been more cooperative with the police in their ongoing antidrug campaign―or at least a milder version of Oplan Tokhang.
“We’re just waiting for them to set a schedule,” said Senior Supt. Nicolas Salvador, the city police chief, referring to the officials of Ayala Alabang Village.
Salvador on Wednesday said Ayala Alabang had agreed to open its gates for the police to conduct “a random inspection” around the subdivision for “any illegal activity.”
Antonio Lazo, the barangay’s security coordinator, confirmed that such arrangements were underway. But he explained that the matter would first be coursed in a letter to the Ayala Alabang Village Association (AAVA) to inform homeowners “in a subtle way” about the inspection, “which will be done at a reasonable hour.”
“Then we plan to put up a hotline where homeowners can call in their drug-related concerns or give us tips on who are involved,” he said.
Lazo admitted that they found it difficult to conduct the anti-drug program Oplan Tokhang in the same way as in poorer barangays, given the village’s affluent and high-profile residents who tightly guard their privacy.
Aside from the Muntinlupa police, the community relations group of the Philippine National Police had also met with Lazo and other barangay officials to discuss how they could conduct the drive without causing too much alarm among the residents.
“The first thing I was asked was, ‘Do you know the whereabouts of the Alabang Boys?’ I told them that as far as I know they’re abroad,” said Lazo.
The so-called Alabang Boys―Joseph Tecson, Richard Brodett and Jorge Joseph―were the scions of wealthy families arrested in September 2008 for alleged sale and possession of illegal drugs, including ecstasy pills, cocaine and marijuana.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) later disclosed a purported P20-million offer for their release and three other bribery attempts in connection with the case. The Department of Justice eventually dismissed the charges for lack of probable cause, but then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the suspects held in jail while the case was being reinvestigated.
In August 2011, Brodett and Joseph were acquitted. Over a year later, Tecson was ordered released due to the “vague answers” given by a PDEA official concerning their arrest. The acquittals were seen as a glaring blunder on the part of PDEA in handling the evidence.
Drug labs discovered
In 2012, Ayala Alabang again made headlines when a drug laboratory run by five Chinese nationals was discovered by the police. In May this year, another “shabu” lab was raided in the village and the three Taiwanese nationals behind it were captured.
“That’s why we are also looking into the tenants,” Barangay Secretary Armando Matanguihan said in an interview. Because of the discovery of the drug laboratories, village officials deemed it necessary to pass an ordinance “regulating residential housing” within the community, he said.
“All tenants as well as brokers have to register themselves with [AAVA],” Matanguihan added. “Homeowners must declare if they are leasing [their property].”
Lazo said he had furnished Salvador, the city police chief, a list of the village residents, including its tenants.
Salvador declined to give further details about the list but said what he received was not a “watch list” of drug suspects, which is what barangay officials usually submit to the police to help them conduct Oplan Tokhang.
Threat of lawsuit
“We’re not denying that there could be [drug activity] here. But no one is going to admit to that and we can’t just identify them outright. We could face a lawsuit,” Lazo said.
Still, Salvador lauded Ayala Alabang’s willingness to cooperate. “And besides, they know that the drug menace will only do them harm.”
In Makati, the local police have encountered difficulties in conducting a similar antidrug drive in the classy villages of Forbes, Dasmariñas, Bel-Air, San Lorenzo and Urdaneta, where officials just submitted “certifications” stating that no drug suspects lived in their communities.
Only Magallanes Village allowed police officers inside their subdivision but provided no list of drug suspects.
Launched during the first few days of the Duterte administration, Oplan Tokhang sends policemen knocking on the doors of alleged drug users and pushers, based on a list provided by barangay officials.
The campaign, targeting mostly slum areas, has since forced thousands of drug suspects to “surrender,” confess and provide information regarding their drug suppliers, while making a pledge to change their ways.
Many have been made to join Zumba dance sessions in front of media cameras. A growing number of surrenderers, however, were later shot dead in vigilante-style killings. With Inquirer Research