Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs apparently missed a pretty crucial area – the vicinity around the presidential palace.
Three suspects were arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) earlier this month for operating an illegal drug trade involving shabu (methamphetamine) within Malacañang Complex, where the sitting Philippine president works. They allegedly hid their operations behind a convenience store right outside the palace gates.
The arrests, which happened during a drug sting, followed a tip from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) that individuals were "engaged in the selling and distribution of shabu inside the Malacañang Complex," according to a press statement by the NBI.
“They ride on the activities of Malacañang for their drug transactions,” said Jonathan Galicia, chief of the NBI Task Force Against Illegal Drugs. The suspects used bicycles within the complex to avoid suspicion, he added.
Six other suspects were arrested a few days later in two neighboring areas following further surveillance. Three were caught in the middle of smoking weed. All six tested positive for drug use, according to CNN Philippines.
While this may cause some to question the efficacy of the drug war, the NBI is using this as an opportunity to highlight the work of the PSG. The suspects’ arrests prove that the PSG has augmented their intelligence gathering against drug suspects, said NBI Spokesperson Lawyer Ferdinand Lavin.
“It only shows that PSG has intensified its intelligence gathering and more than ever they’ve become more intense with their work,” he said during the press briefing at the NBI headquarters. Lavin also clarified that the drug den was found “within the surrounding vicinity” of the Malacañang, and not inside the compound. Aside from the Presidential Palace and other government offices, a residential area also resides in Malacañang.
All nine suspects will be charged with violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, while one suspect will also be charged with illegal possession of firearms after getting caught with an unlicensed pistol.