By Ben Rosario
SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte – With the recent seizure of nearly P800 million worth high grade cocaine off the coast of Siargao and Dinagat Islands, Hugpong ng Pagbabago candidates are convinced that the bill reimposing the death penalty should be ratified by the 18th Congress.
Former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino and Maguindanao Rep. Zajid “Dong” Mangudadatu have expressed support for death penalty measure that has been approved in the House of Representatives but remained pending in the Senate.
On the other hand, former Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” De la Rosa noted that his disclosure in campaign sortie to pursue the enactment of a measure for the execution of drug traffickers is among his legislative plans that have been drawing huge public approval.
Asked to react on the recovery of large narcotics shipment in Siargao and Dinagat, Tolentino said the “high value entries of illegal drugs” should prompt the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine Coast Guard to step up operations and be more vigilant.
“Siguro dapat nang ibalik ang death penalty,” the administration senatorial bet said.
Tolentino called for the execution not only of drug traffickers but also of the source of narcotics and those involved in facilitating drug smuggling into the country.
However, the former presidential adviser said the imposition of the death sentence should be dependent on the frequency of the commission of the offense.
Reacting to the large-scale drug smuggling operations, Mangudadatu said the non-imposition of the death sentence in the Philippines has given narcotics sources the boldness to operate here.
“No death penalty, no problem. That’s how drug traffickers see the situation here,” the Muslim lawmaker said.
Earlier, Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers aired fears that the world-famous tourist attraction has become a transshipment venue for illegal drugs of international cartels based in Latin America.
Barbers, chairman of the House Committee on Drugs, warned public officials and law enforcers against dipping their fingers in illegal drug trade even as he urged authorities to impose stricter measures that would put an end to drug smuggling and illicit narcotics trade in Siargao and other tourism areas in the country.
He said there is a strong possibility that narcotics smugglers have local contacts in Siargao who repackage the drugs.
“Maybe residents of Siargao, I believe are their contacts. These contacts may be engaged in repacking, or in the wholesale distribution of the dope,” he said.
The senior administration solon pointed out that smugglers have no local contacts who are knowledgeable of the island’s security.
Last week, 40 bricks of cocaine were discovered by local residents floating in the sea off Burgos town in Siargao island.
On February 14 and 15, a total of 70 abandoned cocaine bricks worth nearly half a billion pesos were seized by the police in Siargao and Dinagat.
All cocaine bricks bore “3B Bugatti” markings, indicating that they belonged to the same group of drug smugglers.
Barbers did not discount the possibility that the foreigners and even locals in Siargao provide a ready market for the recovered cocaine.
However, he noted that such large amount of drugs may also be seen as an indication that Siargao is being used as a transshipment venue for narcotics that are being distributed to other parts of Asia.