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drug smuggling

Philippine Customs Found $2 Million Worth of Drugs In Cans of Tomato Soup

It was almost a perfect disguise.
cans of soup
Image via Shutterstock

Two years ago, MUNCHIES compiled a list of all the ways people have tried to smuggle drugs inside food. One method missing from the list is hiding the goods inside cans of tomato soup, which is exactly what happened this week.

And some smugglers out there would’ve got away with it too if it wasn't for a meddling customs officer. Officers at the Clark International Airport, in northwest Manila, noticed that one of the cans was leaking. When authorities opened up all of them — surprise! — they found more than $2 million USD worth of meth and Ecstasy. Somewhere in heaven (or hell?), Andy Warhol must be beaming with pride.


The cans of tomato soup originated in Las Vegas and arrived at the airport customs in four shipments on four different days in late December and early January, according to a report by The Inquirer. They were al addressed to a woman named Edna Valenzuela. Valenzuela, who's now in police custody, maintains that she had no idea that the cans contained drugs. She was merely instructed to receive them by a friend in exchange of cash, she said. She is now in police custody.

Watch: How Mexican Drug Cartels Get Meth Into The U.S.

In the Philippines, women comprise the majority of drug couriers, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) because they supposedly draw less suspicion. The PDEA writes that a lot of women are drawn into the crime by promises of marriage or love by drug syndicates, although the money surely helps too.

Two million dollars worth of drugs seem like a lot, but that's not even the biggest drug smuggling bust in the country. In 2017, $125.4 million USD worth of methamphetamine was seized in two warehouses in Manila and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) was allegedly complicit in the smuggling of the drugs that came from China—the Philippines' main source of meth.

Last August, the Senate announced that it would begin a probe into the BOC, which is notorious for its shady dealings with drug syndicates. “It (drug smuggling) really angers me. I fee like—if we arrest those who smuggled those drugs, line them up with the huge drug haul in front of the people and be executed by firing squad,” Senator Manny Pacquiao told reporters then.

Of course, in reality, President Rordrigo Duterte's drug war has been a massively bloody one as is—since it started in 2016, 12,000 drug suspects have been executed, including 17-year-old Kian Lloyd delos Santos who were later proven to be innocent.

Reading about people trying to smuggle drugs in tomato soup cans sure is amusing, until you remember that it's all part of the dark, brutal reality of Philippines' war on drugs.