COMMENTARY: Analysis of Drugs in the Philippines

Analysis of Drugs in the Philippines

Illegal drugs problem poses a serious threat not just to the users itself but as well as to society in general. Illegal drugs destroy the very fiber our nation – the people. It is said that drugs is the root cause of why a nation, like the Philippines, continues to struggle in terms of social and economic stability. But why in the hell, for so many years, the Philippines is still in dilemma fighting to eradicate, much less, destabilize illegal drugs? After years of relentless effort, financial indulgence and vast array of anti-drug campaigns, why are we still being flooded with illegal drugs? Notwithstanding the myriad of anti-drug operations our law enforcement agencies have been doing this past few weeks.

The new President-elect vowed to significantly phase-out, or at least lessen the drug cases in our country in just six months, and in so doing, would willingly and with strong might, resort to extra-judicial killings. Will this be a formidable solution? A big NO, for this will only create chaos among human rights advocates, more so, among member-states of the United Nations promoting respect for human rights. Any person would know the effect if we have the rage of the international community; adding the fact that we are dependent, and will always be dependent, on our international partners.

Background of Drugs in the Philippines

With the exception of Marijuana, all of the illegal drugs we have in the Philippines came from China and other countries. The Philippines does not have the chemicals and precursors to produce the different kinds of illegal drugs.

Let us take, for instance, the never-dying addiction and proliferation of Methamphetamine hydrochloride or commonly known as Shabu. The main ingredient of Shabu is Ephedrine, which came from the plant Ephedra (Ma Huang, Chinese name). Ephedra is an ancient herbal plant commonly found in China and has been widely used for medicinal purposes. Ephedra is regulated (meaning not prohibited) in China, where chemicals out of the plant are extracted (Ephedrine and Pseudo-ephedrine). Ephedrine and Pseudo-ephedrine are listed under the Controlled and Regulated Precursors of the United Nations’ different conventions on drugs. Meaning, these chemical precursors are not prohibited considering that these chemical precursors are also being utilized as ingredients for bronchial medicines such medicines for colds, asthma, allergy and flu. China, due to its large industry of chemical manufacture, is still the main supplier of these regulated/controlled precursors.

A report stated that more than 90% of Methamphetamine used in United States which came from Mexico were produced using the ingredients coming from China. This is an eye-opener fact where people believe that Mexico is the main drug supplier and trafficker of the world. Mexican Cartels would be nothing without the supply that came from China.

Another example is Methylene Deoxymethamphetamine or the famous Ecstasy. The main chemical ingredient of ecstasy is Safrole which is extracted from Sassfras plants (Sassafras tzumu Chinese name). This ancient herbal plant, which is also widely found in China, used to treat rheumatism and trauma. Like Ephedrine and Pseudo-ephedrine, Safrole is not an illegal chemical and only listed under Controlled and Regulated substances under drug conventions. The diversion of these chemicals (Ephedrine, Pseudo-ephedrine, Safrole) into a prohibited drug makes it illegal under Republic Act 9165 otherwise known as Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, our Philippine law on drugs. Moreover, Republic Act 9165, makes reference to the list of regulated substances enumerated under the United Nations’ different convention on drugs.

With these facts, one may ask, “If these chemicals/precursors are regulated and controlled, how do they enter into our country and being monitored by the government?”

There are three main answers to these questions. One, Pharmaceutical Companies in the Philippines need these chemicals for the production of drugs in the treatment of bronchial disorder. Second, these chemicals are being transported into the Philippines, mostly by sea, under the cloak of legitimate use or under the disguise of legitimate business. And third, corruption and incapacity of the different enforcement agencies of the government.

The first one needs no further elaboration other than the Pharmaceutical companies must be a legitimate company in the production of medicines. This is where the BFAD, SEC, and DOH come into the picture by constantly monitoring the activities of these companies. The government must see to it that these companies are not doing illegal diversion of these chemicals.

The second one poses a serious problem. Any person may order or purchase these chemicals through internet, mostly through Deep Web. The transaction can last for only 30 minutes and the supplier would deliver the requested chemical precursors in the stated (dummy) address. These chemicals are delivered through bogus-named products (to conceal the chemicals) such as labeling the packages as paint, shampoo, noodles or canned goods to elude detection from ports. Of course, a person who is in the business of selling canned goods or packed-noodles from China for 10 or 20 years would not create a suspicion that he is also producing Shabu in his house. Report also stated that one of the leading shipping firm, Federal Express (FedEx), was accused of knowingly doling out prescription drugs to users without prescriptions since 2000. This indicates the complicated nature of repressing illegal drugs since chemical precursors can be transported through legitimate means.

The third one, and the most crucial of them all is corruption. As stated by a famous Philippine lady Senator, “Corruption is as old as the earth itself and eradication of which is so hard, if not impossible.” Corruption in the enforcement, prosecution and even in the judiciary plays a vital role in the proliferation of illegal drugs. Drugs intercepted in our coastal waters would be futile if one who should enforce the law voluntarily maligned his sworn duty by reason of the bribe money at stake. Another point of concern, our maritime law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine Coast Guard and the PNP-Maritime Group who are task to enforce drug laws in our maritime domain, do not have the capacity to conduct maritime patrol in our vast area of coastal waters considering that these agencies lack patrol boats to do patrol duties in over 3,000 coastal barangays. This poses a great problem since most, if not all, of the drug transshipment are made through the channels of water. The scarcity of maritime equipment and materials of these maritime law enforcement agencies makes it more frustrating to suppress the entry of illegal drugs and its precursors.

With all of these facts, what would be the main solution? To annihilate drug pushers or users, who unfortunately, most are Filipinos? Or prevent or monitor the chemical/precursors of these illegal drugs into our country?

Though acknowledgement should be given to different law enforcement agencies in doing drug raids and arrest of drug dealers, the scenario would just be repeated over and over again without successfully cracking down illegal drugs. Killing our fellow Filipinos will never stop drug proliferation, nor end the terror of drugs. Instead, it will only make us all fools of becoming a fragile prey by a plot cleverly designed by our enemies.

Filipinos, be it drug pushers or users are just victims of this unseen war that most of us (especially the government) failed to analyze. We forgot to analyze that we, the whole Filipino nation, are victims of this illegal drugs.

Let us be reminded that our enemies here are not the pushers/users, nor the illegal drugs itself. Let us be reminded that our ultimate enemy here, lies outside of our maritime border and is slowly destroying us in the inside through tactics we are blinded to see.

1. The Challenge of Synthetic Drugs In East and South-East Asia and Oceania, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2015;
2. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume I Drug and Chemical Control, March2015
3. International Narcotics Control Board Report 2015;
4. Drug Abuse Information on Network for Asia and the Pacific
5. 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs, 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances;
6. Republic Act 9165 as amended;
7. A small district in the south of China is the likely origin of Australia’s meth imports by Nick Whigham,
8. Drug seizures soar in China; most suspects are ‘farmers and unemployed’ by Julie Makinen,
9. Deadly Chinese drugs are flooding the U.S., and police can’t stop them By Peter Holley and William Wan,
10. China Is Fueling a Drug War Against the US by Joshua Philipp,
11. Empire and the History of the Drug Trade A Marxist Review by S. Taylor- Wickenden, work,