COMMENTARY: Weekly Burning of Confiscated “Shabu” A Must

Whenever there is a change of guard in the Bureau of Customs, it has always been the practice of the bureau to put up a press release of, say, they intercepted a container van loaded with smuggled goods, and the new custom’s head would be seen at the scene posing proudly over the catch to impress the public.  That kind of a show has already been worn out. But for some reasons it has always been reenacted. And so, people thought that the bureau will forever stink; as its crook stakeholder remains in place. And no new ideas forthcoming to impress the people or to improve the bureau’s corrupt image.

The same seems to be true with the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

As the president-elect Rody Duterte gears up for combat against drugs, he declared disbanding the PDEA, for not doing well its job. But then knowing the agency was created by the law he changed his mind. He also said he is going to reshuffle the agency’s personnel from top to bottom, and reassign them somewhere in Mindanao. Because of these, the PDEA alerted their assets, pursued raids, and conducted a series of entrapment and buy-bust operations. This was as if the PDEA people wanted to impress Duterte that they are not letting the grass grow under their feet.

The PDEA made headlines of their raids. They dismantled “shabu” factories; arrested Chinese nationals who are commonly involved in the drug trade and their Filipino counterparts, and confiscated the market-ready “shabu”.

All of these, the PDEA do when they are on the hot spot when crime escalated due to drug use. Now, the PDEA wanted to be impressive. Their personnel want to stay put when Duterte assumes the presidency.

If the PDEA really wants to be impressive, all they should do is conduct a weekly burning of the confiscated “shabu”. After all, when this Dangerous Drug Act of 2002 was signed into law by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, she ordered its weekly burning. But it was waylaid somehow and didn’t materialize.

The Implementing Rules and Regulation of the Dangerous Drug Act of 2002’s, some aspects of it are being followed by PDEA – for example, the destruction of the illicit drug facilities. However, the immediate burning of the confiscated drugs within 72 hours after the filing of a criminal case took them so long.  The “shabu” remained in their custody, and it has been a common belief that they are being reused, resold, and recycled back to the street by the unscrupulous personnel of the PDEA.

Fourteen years after the Dangerous Drug Act of 2002, put in force, according to press releases, the PDEA did only four burning; August 2003. June 23, 2004, December 2005. And another one, which is fairly recent, on February 12, 2016, which has the biggest haul so far, since 2002.

This is not impressive. If the PDEA just take photographs of the confiscated “shabu” during raids, and no public burning of it, that could be interpreted as like the habit of the Bureau of Customs — displaying the smuggled contraband in the container van being caught in the act. No value at all, and it is only for a show.

The confiscated “shabu”, ready for consumption, is easy money and a big temptation. The PDEA people might feel they are sitting on the lottery pool they can easily get their hands on the cookie jar, and get them to the street. As opposed to the destruction of those raw materials and machinery used to make “shabu” which, they used as props to display they are doing their job, although this is not as impressive as the weekly burning of the “shabu”.

Perhaps it’s about time we see some real action.