PRO-6 bats for equipment boost, strict inspection in WV ports

By Jennifer P. Rendon

Estrelita Bueno, 68, looks like your ordinary doting grandmother – wrinkled and appearing weak, with a streak of white hairs, and carrying foodstuff for the grandkids.

Maybe, it was that grandmotherly look that allowed Bueno, a resident of Quezon City, to breeze through security inspection while carrying millions of pesos worth of suspected shabu.

Carrying 1.2 kilos of shabu worth P8.160 million, Bueno was arrested afternoon of March 27, 2023 at Barangay Buhang, Jaro, Iloilo just several minutes after she disembarked from a roll on-roll off bus from Metro Manila.

Better intelligence gathering and perfect timing worked in favor of police operatives who collared Bueno.

But Brigadier General Leo Francisco, Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 director, also acknowledged that the arrest proved that there is a need to upgrade security equipment in different ports.

“Among others, we need better scanners and, if possible, to strictly implement inspections of baggage of the passengers,” he said.

Sadly, some inspections are just done for compliance.

Francisco said there is a lot to be done but better equipment and strict inspections would be good starters.

In several Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (RLECC) meetings, Francisco said they have planned to organize a group composed of the PNP (Maritime and local police), Philippine Coast Guard, and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to purposely guard the ports and preempt the entry of contrabands.

The region’s top cop said Western Visayas has so many areas that could be used as transshipment points.

These include the Caticlan Jetty Port in Malay, Aklan; the Port of Iloilo in Iloilo City; and the Dumangas Ro-Ro Port in Dumangas, Iloilo.

There are also ports in Cadiz City, Escalante City, and San Carlos City in Negros Occidental.

There are other ports that are also under police radar.

Meanwhile, Major Rommel Anicete, Regional Police Drug Enforcement Unit (RPDEU) 6 chief, said that inspection should also be strictly enforced from the passengers’ origin.

In the case of Bueno, she boarded a bus in Cubao, Quezon City.

She packed the illegal drugs and placed them inside a formula milk box.

“It was neatly packed to make it appear that the box of milk hasn’t been opened,” he said.

After making it on the bus, she passed through Batangas Port and arrived in Caticlan.

The bus then navigated until Iloilo City, where she was arrested.

Anicete said that if there were drug-sniffing dogs, these packages could have also been detected.

But usually, some ports only employed bomb-sniffing K-9 units.

The luggage stowed in the bus’s luggage rack doesn’t pass the scanning machine.

“That’s why ro-ro has been used by couriers to bring in drugs to provinces,” he said.

On the law enforcement part, Anicete said they have to adjust their strategy to bust the drug couriers’ modus operandi.