GUIMARAS, SHABU LANE? That’s what a headline in The Daily Guardian recently suggested. We moved to Guimaras, an island province in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines, over nine years ago. This sleepy, provincial island, known for the sweetest mangoes in the world, is generally quiet and peaceful. While someone might occasionally get a snootful of too much Red Horse and stab someone, we haven’t had any major problems while living here.
Shot in Back of the Head for “Stupid” Remark
Nevertheless, my wife recently saw a prisoner at the local police station who was jailed for shooting another man in the back of the head. Both parties were young Filipinos and both were allegedly drunk.
The perpetrator snuck up behind the victim and shot him because the victim had called him “stupid.” The wounded man was hospitalized in critical condition. My police sources inform me that the victim’s family will probably drop charges and settle the incident with a cash payment, which is sometimes the case in the Philippines.
What was my spouse doing at the police station in the first place? She was following up on paperwork which was required during a recent accident in which our Ford Ranger was damaged.
GUIMARAS, SHABU LANE?
Nonetheless, while Red Horse, Tanduay Rhum and other adult beverages may spark fisticuffs, shabu (meth) is also known to cause deviant behavior.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Region 6 recently stated that Guimaras remains a transshipment point of illegal drugs from Negros Occidental to Iloilo. Drug couriers pass through the island-province when transporting illegal drugs to Iloilo City and the province of Iloilo.
Jordan Wharf in Guimaras is only a short 12-15 minute motorized banca boat ride to Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo City. More than 20,000 passengers traverse the Iloilo Strait every day.
“We monitored that there are very minimal illegal drug activities in Guimaras but our intelligence reports still suggest that illegal drugs supplies are not directly brought to Iloilo from Negros. It has to pass through Guimaras,” said PDEA-6 spokesperson David Abraham Garcia on July 26, 2018.
New Chief Unhappy with Western Visayas Anti-Drug Operations
More than a week ago, Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, Western Visayas police chief, expressed discontent with how Western Visayas policemen performed in anti-illegal drugs operations.
For the month of June, Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 conducted 159 operations that led to the arrest of 215 suspected drug personalities. Here’s the June breakdown:
- Negros Occidental led with 50 operations conducted and 71 arrests;
- Bacolod City was close behind with 49 operations and 69 arrests;
- Iloilo province, 21 operations and 23 arrests;
- Iloilo City, 15 operations and 20 arrests;
- Capiz, 13 operations 20 arrested;
- Antique, 19 operations and 3 arrested.
- The Aklan Police Provincial Office (APPO) conducted one anti-narcotics operation that led to the arrest of three persons.
- Guimaras was last on the list; in fact, there were no anti-drug operations in the island province the past two months.
“This is maybe one of the reasons that we would consider the relief of the provincial police director of Guimaras. For the past one or two months, wala (no) silang nagging operations,” Bulalacao said.
Could the absence of arrested drug personalities be due to a good number of barangays in Guimaras are already drug-cleared, as some have claimed?
Superintendent Bulalacao rejected the claim.
“There are still reports that Guimaras is used as a transshipment point from Negros to Iloilo,” he said.
However Senior Superintendent Julio Gustilo, Guimaras police director, justified that the zero accomplishment was due to the fact that high-value targets have left the island-province, making it peaceful and crime-free.
Recent Drug Bust in Guimaras
Nevertheless, after Bulalacao made his declarations, the PNP Regional Drug Enforcement Unit 6 (RDEU)-6 and Buenavista Police Station arrested three suspected drug peddlers at Barangay Mclain, Buenavista, Guimaras.
They are Resalde Hortillosa, 54, and Judie Pastolero, 32, both residents of Mclain village; and Ranguillyn Cepeda, 28, from Barangay Bari, Sibalom, Antique.
Recovered from their possession were 13 sachets of suspected shabu and P1,500 cash, 30 US dollars.
PDEA-6 spokesperson Garcia states that “we respect the observation of the PNP Guimaras chief but our validation report indicates that it is used as a transshipment point.”
Atty. Wardley Getalla, PDEA-6 regional director, said that they have monitored “discreet” illegal drug activities in Guimaras.
“Maingat na ‘yung nga nagpu-push dyan. They would lie low for a while then go back to their operations again,” he added.
According to PDEA, only the barangays in the town of Sibunag were declared drug-cleared.
Philippine Coast Guard Pursuing Illegal Fishermen
From my own personal perspective, law enforcement officials in Guimaras don’t have the manpower to check every passenger boarding a banca boat from the two wharves in Guimaras.
My police source on the island informs me that to search every passenger would be impractical and illegal, much like the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution which protects against “illegal search and seizure”
However, my law enforcement resource informs me that the Philippine Coast Guard is concentrating their efforts on pursuing illegal fishing operations in Guimaras.
In fact, the Panay News reported six fishermen accused of illegal fishing were arrested off the waters of Unisan Island in the municipality of Nueva Valencia, Guimaras.
Crew members of the fishing vessel “Mic Mic” – all residents of Hinigaran, Negros Occidental – were detained in the Nueva Valencia police station.
The fishermen used “trawl with active gear,” in violation of Republic Act 8550, or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, as amended by Republic Act 10654, Coast Guard regional spokesman Ramil Palabrica said.
Coast Guard and Guimaras Bantay Dagat officers confronted the fishermen at around 9 a.m. on July 21 after receiving a report on their presence some “6 nautical miles southeast of Unisan Island,” said Palabrica.
Containers of fish and the fishing boat seized from the fishers were taken by the Nueva Valencia police in custody.
Palabrica acknowledged that illegal fishers still operate in the region and vowed that the Coast Guard will keep hunting them. “Illegal fishing destroys our corals and small fish,” he said.