MANILA — Operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and Southern Police District (SPD) have rescued six minors and arrested seven persons, including the leader of a drug group, in a suspected drug den in Muntinlupa City.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino on Friday identified the suspects as Cristina Lopena, 52, the alleged drug den owner; Marlon Macatuggal, 24, a paint artist; Mark Gil Patriarca, 35, also a paint artist; Dandrian Alvarez, 30, helper; Michael Lopena, 38; and Virgilio Valdrias, 30, all residents of Purok 1, Barangay Sucat, Muntilupa City; and Rejay Lazaga, 19, jobless, of Marcelo Green, Parañaque City.
Aquino said the joint operatives of PDEA Regional Office-National Capital Region (PDEA RO-NCR) Southern District Office under Director Ismael G. Fajardo Jr., the Muntinlupa City Police Station and the Southern Police District implemented a lawful search in a house that doubles as a drug den in Barangay Sucat, Muntinlupa City on Tuesday afternoon.
Cristina is the alleged leader of the Lopena drug group operating in Muntinlupa City.
Seized were 22 transparent plastic sachets containing more or less 30 grams of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu” worth PHP204,000, 13 plastic bags containing dried marijuana leaves, weighing approximately 100 grams worth PHP12,000, three disposable lighters, aluminum foil strips with traces of suspected shabu residue, and one Caliber .38 revolver.
Cristina will be charged with violation of Section 6 (Maintenance of a Drug Den), Section 11 (Possession of Dangerous Drugs) and Section 12 (Possession of Drug Paraphernalia), Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, or “The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002”, while the rest will face charges of violation of Section 7 (Visitors of a Drug Den).
A separate case for violation of RA 10591, or The Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Act, will also be filed against Cristina.
Aquino said the minors who were rescued, the youngest of whom is four years old, were already turned over to the city’s social welfare office.
He said the agency is continuously monitoring the use of minors in drug trafficking activities.
From 2011 to last June 15, some 2,111 minors, aged six to 17 years old, had been arrested for violation of the anti-drug law. The youngest recorded minor rescued was six years old.
“At the onset of the drug war, from July 2016 to June 15, 2018, a total of 1,155 minors were rescued nationwide from the illegal drug trade, compared to the 956 rescued from 2011 to June 2016. They were endorsed to the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) offices for custody. Fifty percent of them were aged 17 years old,” Aquino said.
About 959 (45.43 percent) were pushers of dangerous drugs; 725 (34.34 percent) were drug possessors; 277 (13.12 percent) were drug users; and 111 (5.26 percent) were visitors of a drug den. The rest were cultivators, traffickers, runners, cohorts, drug den employees, and maintainers.
“There is a rampant use of minors as runners and couriers in the drug trade. However, some minors have become silent witnesses of illegal drug activities happening right in front of their faces, and they are not even aware of it,” Aquino said, referring to recent anti-drug operations, where surveillance footage showed an ongoing “shabu” session in front of small children.
“Children exposed to illegal drug activity, in particular drug use, is a form of child abuse. Imagine what would the child’s upbringing be like in the care of drug-addicted parents living in a drug-fueled environment. These children will be the future criminals of society if neglected,” the PDEA chief added.
After the Department of Education (DepEd) rejected PDEA’s proposal to conduct mandatory drug testing for teachers and students from Grades 4 and up, PDEA now pushes for a mandatory drug testing for high school and college students in public and private schools throughout the country.
Aquino said the move seeks to determine the extent of drug use among students, teachers, and even school personnel, or those having drug problems and deter drug use, both for the purpose of reform and rehabilitation.
The PDEA has also set its sights on keeping children off the streets and away from the evil effects of drug use through the “Sagip Batang Solvent” project, which aims to rescue street children from the drug trade and drug abuse, with sniffers of solvent as primary targets.
“The future of our nation lies in the hands of our children. Save them by giving them the chance of a bright future,” Aquino said. (PNA)