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Saturday, February 5, 2011

PDEA, PIA move to halt drug mules recruitment

With 689 Filipino drug mules or couriers presently languishing in jails outside the Philippines with a big number facing death penalty, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), in coordination with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), launched in this city the Anti-Drug Courier Program Visayas Cluster.

The launching was held February 3 at the Sarabia Manor Hotel here led by PDEA Undersecretary Gen. Jose S. Gutierrez, Jr. and PIA Director-General Atty. Jose A. Fabia, as one of the moves of PDEA to put an end to the recruitment of Filipino drug mules or couriers used by syndicates to deliver illegal drugs from one country to another for a fee.

According to the PDEA, of the 689 cases of apprehended drug couriers, 431 are females (63%) while 258 are males (37%). Seventy-nine (79) are currently facing death penalty in China, and of the 79 death penalty cases, 6 are facing death with no reprieve, while 73 are sentenced to death with 2-year reprieve.

“We have witnessed how the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) contributed to the economy of our country, but we also have a growing concern for Filipinos who are arrested and detained in other countries for couriering illegal drugs and narcotics to earn fast bucks,” USEC Gutierrez told PIA regional directors and information center managers from regions 6, 7 and 8 composing the Visayas cluster of the government agency.

Gladys Rosales, Director III of PDEA who briefed the participants on the current Drug Courier Problem, said the modus operandi of syndicates include recruiting Filipinos through a common Filipino friend, marrying potential recruits , meeting through casual acquaintance, offering $2,000 for every successful transaction and providing plane tickets for couriers.

Rosales said there are instances when syndicate members who marry their potential Filipina drug couriers impregnate first these women because laws in some countries involving pregnant women or those with babies are more compassionate, like in China.

Drug couriers arrested are mostly women. For potential drug couriers, syndicates are on the lookout for displaced OFWs, those looking for jobs abroad and those with poor educational background.

Some are also well-educated, but seeking easy money.

Drugs usually originate from Malaysia, Macau, Thailand, Nepal, Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries, according to the PDEA.

Major destination of drugs are China, (90%), Hongkong (9%) and Taiwan (1%).

Presently, PDEA is relying on one government initiative to help stop recruitment of Filipino drug mules, or keeping them away from being victimized by syndicates – the Task Force Drug Couriers created Feb. 8, 2010 through AO 279.

Chaired by PDEA and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the task force has 11 member agencies including the PIA.

Through AO 279, the Task Force was able to conduct Operation Homerun on March 7-31, 2010 resulting in the apprehension of West African Drug Syndicate (WADS) and Operation Bull’s Eye conducted on November 25,2010 – January 8, 2011 resulting to apprehension of WADS members, seizure of 3 kgs. cocaine and rescue of 2 Filipina couriers.

Meanwhile, PIA, as TF member, is being looked up by PDEA as a major contributor in solving the problem on drug couriers.

USEC Gutierrez said the PIA could help prevent recruitment and further victimization of Filipinos by drug syndicates, through its news stories supporting PDEA’s anti-drug courier programs.

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