Cablegate: Philippines 2007-2008 International Narcotics

DE RUEHML #3595/01 3090923
O 050923Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 136782

1. The following text is keyed to questions posed in the
2007-2008 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report,
Part I, Drugs and Chemical Control (ref).


2. The Government of the Philippines (GRP) attributes a
reported decline in the number of users of illicit drugs to
continued joint efforts of the Philippine law enforcement
authorities in disrupting major drug trafficking
organizations and in dismantling clandestine drug
laboratories and warehouses. The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB)
reports that in 2007, there was a significant increase in
seizures of clandestine labs, while the number of drug
abusers reportedly declined. The Philippine government
continues to build the capacity of the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency (PDEA), which was established by the GRP
in 2002; the PDEA Academy graduated its first 55 agents in
February 2007. Based on 2007 seizures, the Philippines
continues to be a producer of methamphetamine. There is some
evidence that terrorist organizations may use drug
trafficking to fund their activities.

3. The Philippines is a party to the 1988 UN Drug


4. According to the DDB, within the Office of the President,
there has been a continuous decline in the number of drug
users and a downward trend in the number of drug-related
arrests in the Philippines. The most recent DDB survey
(2007) reported that there are approximately 3.4 million
regular and occasional drug users, compared with 6.7 million
in 2004, the last year the survey was conducted.
Methamphetamine, locally known as "shabu," is the primary
drug of choice in the Philippines. However, the significant
number of seizures of clandestine laboratories has resulted
in the continuous decline of supply of methamphetamine. The
DDB reports that the current price of methamphetamine has
escalated from 2,000 pesos per gram in 2006 to 5,000 pesos in
2007, although according to the PDEA, the price varies from
3,000 pesos on the streets of Manila to 5,000 pesos in
outlying provinces. In quantities of 10 grams or more, the
price can be as low as 2,500 pesos per gram.

5. Methamphetamine is clandestinely manufactured in the
Philippines. Precursor chemicals are smuggled into the
Philippines, or illegally diverted after legal importation,
from the People's Republic of China (PRC), including Hong
Kong. Ephedrine has also been smuggled from India, although
there have been no such seizures since 2005. In 2007, there
were 220 local drug trafficking groups identified, compared
with 105 in 2006. According to the DDB, there were eight
known transnational drug organizations operating in the
country in 2007, compared with seven in 2006. Each group
includes at least five major foreign drug lords from the PRC
and Taiwan. Muslim separatist groups participate in the
distribution of methamphetamine in the Philippines,
particularly in the southern section of the country. The Abu
Sayyaf Group (ASG) along with elements of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) are also directly involved in
smuggling, as well as protection of methamphetamine
production and its transportation to other parts of the
country and across southeast Asia. The Philippines is a
source of methamphetamine exported to Australia, Canada,
Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. (including Guam and Saipan).

6. Dealers sell methamphetamine hydrochloride in crystal
form for smoking (shabu). No production or distribution of
methamphetamine in tablet form ("yaba") has been reported in
the Philippines. Producers typically make methamphetamine in
clandestine labs through a hydrogenation process that uses
palladium and hydrogen gas to refine chlor-ephedrine mixture
into crystal form. Another production method involves the
use of red phosphorous.

7. The Philippines produces, consumes, and exports

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marijuana. Cultivation of marijuana is in mountainous, often
government-owned, areas inaccessible to vehicles. Marijuana
has gained popularity because of the price increase of
methamphetamine. Although Philippine law enforcement
officials have conducted numerous eradication operations, the
lack of fuel for military and police helicopters makes it
difficult for the Philippine government to keep up with rapid
marijuana re-cultivation. The New People's Army (NPA)
insurgent group control and protect most marijuana plantation
sites. Most of the marijuana produced in the Philippines is
for local consumption, with the remainder smuggled to Korea,
Japan, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

8. Methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), commonly known as
ecstasy, is gaining popularity among young expatriates and
affluent members of the Philippine society. Although there
was no significant increase in seizures during 2007, there is
a reported MDMA smuggling organization operating in Mindanao,
in the southern region of the country. PDEA reports an
increase in the number of dealers operating in the Manila
metropolitan area.

9. According to the DDB, while there are no reports of
ketamine abuse in the country, intelligence indicates the
presence of transnational drug groups that utilize the
country as a venue for the production of ketamine powder for
export to other countries.



10. The administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
has pledged to continue to concentrate on the full and
sustained implementation of counter-narcotics legislation and
the PDEA as the lead counter-narcotics agency.

11. In 2002, President Arroyo created by executive order the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Illegal Drugs Special
Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF) to maintain law enforcement
pressure on narcotics trafficking while PDEA became fully
functional by 2007. In 2006, PDEA began training its first
academy class, which provided approximately 55 new newly
trained PDEA agents in February 2007. In mid-2007, the
Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government

ordered the then-Chief of PNP to recall over 600 officers who
had been seconded to PDEA. Only a small number of PNP
officers were allowed to remain in PDEA temporarily,
primarily in the headquarters unit and special teams,
effectively eliminating PDEA's investigative capability in
many provinces. For example, there is now only one PDEA
agent in Region I (Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union
provinces), the primary area for export of marijuana.

12. The GRP has developed and is implementing a
counternarcotics master plan known as the National Anti-Drug
Strategy (NADS). The NADS is executed by the National
Anti-Drug Program of Action (NADPA) and contains provisions
for counternarcotics law enforcement, drug treatment and
prevention, and internal cooperation in counternarcotics, all
of which are objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. In
2007, cities, towns, and barangays (neighborhoods) continued
to utilize anti-drug law enforcement councils, as mandated by
NADPA, to conduct community awareness programs, such as
rallies, seminars, and youth activities.

13. The GRP has institutionalized a drug testing program
(urinalysis) for law enforcement personnel, students,
drivers, firearms owners, and workers. Additionally, the GRP
has promulgated a national drug-free workplace program which
provides for random drug-testing of employees, and assistance
for employees who admit to having a drug problem.

14. In July 2005, the DEA Manila Country Office and Joint
Inter-Agency Task Force-West (JIATF-W) began to develop a
network of drug information fusion centers in the
Philippines. The primary facility, the Maritime Drug
Enforcement Coordination Center (MDECC) is located at PDEA
Headquarters in Quezon City. There are three satellite
centers, called Maritime Information Coordination Centers

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(MICCs), located at the headquarters of the Naval Forces
Western Mindanao, Zamboanga del Sur (southwestern Mindanao),
Coast Guard Station General Santos City (south-central
Mindanao), and at Poro Point, San Fernando, La Union
(northwestern Luzon). These centers gather information about
maritime drug trafficking and other forms of smuggling, and
provide actionable target information that law enforcement
agencies can use to investigate and prosecute drug
trafficking organizations. An executive order requiring the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National
Police (PNP), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency
(NICA), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to comply with an
earlier Memorandum of Agreement and partner with PDEA in the
Maritime Drug Enforcement Coordination Center (MDECC) project
was submitted to the Office of the President in February
2006, but has yet to be signed. The PNP, PDEA, PCG, and NICA
have nonetheless voluntarily assigned personnel to the MDECC.


15. Counter-narcotics law enforcement remains a high
priority of the GRP. Lack of resources continues to hinder
operations, but law enforcement efforts are relatively
effective, given low funding levels. PDEA officials believe
ILEA and JIATF-West training for law enforcement and military
personnel have helped make interdiction operations more
efficient and effective. GRP law enforcement agencies
continued to target major traffickers and clandestine drug
labs in 2007. Significant successes included the seizures of
a number of clandestine laboratories and warehouses. In
September 2007, the PNP recovered 246 kilograms of high-grade
"shabu" from an overturned vehicle on the South Luzon
Expressway, south of Manila; PNP estimated the potential
street price of the methamphetamine to be P1.23 billion (USD
27.33 million).

16. Current Philippine laws regarding electronic
surveillance and bank secrecy prevent Philippine enforcement
agencies from using electronic surveillance techniques, and
restrict access to bank information of suspected drug
traffickers. The 1965 Anti-Wiretapping Act prohibits the use
of wiretapping, as well as consensual monitoring of
conversations and interrogations, as evidence in court.
Additionally, there are no provisions to seal court records
to protect confidential sources and methods. Hence, most
drug arrests result from information from disgruntled drug
trafficking insiders who voluntarily give leads to the
Philippine authorities.

17. Along with a nearly 80% loss of its investigative
manpower, the lack of a functioning laboratory remains a
significant operational weakness for PDEA, as in previous
years. Dismissals and resignations have also decreased the
number of experienced staff at the laboratory. In addition,
the lab lacks basic equipment. The Japanese International
Cooperation Agency donated a sophisticated gas chromatograph
mass spectrometer scanner to PDEA in 2006, but the capacity
of the PDEA lab has not been fully developed; many exhibits
are analyzed at the PNP crime laboratories, particularly in
the provinces. In addition, the lack of a functioning lab
means there is no adequate storage facility for evidence;
currently, PDEA stores seized drugs and chemicals (some
highly toxic) in shipping containers in the headquarters
parking lot. PDEA is interviewing candidates for the vacant
Laboratory Service Director position. Selection of an
experienced, fully qualified forensic chemist to take over
operations and develop standard operating procedures would be
an important step in creating a credible, functional lab.

18. Pervasive problems in law enforcement and criminal
justice system such as corruption, low morale, inadequate
resources and salaries, and lack of cooperation between
police and prosecutors also hamper drug prosecutions. The
slow process of prosecuting cases not only demoralizes law
enforcement personnel but also permits drug dealers to
continue their drug business while awaiting court dates. GRP
statistics in 2007 showed only a 35 percent conviction rate
in drug cases, and the leading cause for dismissal of cases
is the non-appearance of prosecution witnesses, including
police officers. By the time a case gets to trial, witnesses

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have often disappeared, or been persuaded through extortion
or bribery to change their testimony. The Comprehensive
Dangerous Drug Act prohibits plea-bargaining in exchange for
testimony once a suspect has been charged; this concept
conflicts with standard practices in the U.S. and other
Western countries. There is no incentive for a defendant to
plead guilty and offer testimony against superiors in the
drug trafficking organization, so investigations in the
Philippines generally end with the first arrests. Often,
runners and street dealers are the only ones charged, and
they have no motive to give up their sources and patrons.
This is a significant weakness in the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drug Act.

19. The terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and New People's
Army (NPA) are directly linked to drug trafficking activity.
PNP officials believe elements of the ASG are engaged in
providing security for marijuana cultivation, protection for
drug trafficking organization (DTO) operations, and local
drug distribution operations, particularly in Jolo and
Tawi-Tawi. Philippine police and military officials report
that the ASG continues to provide protection for major drug
trafficking groups operating in the Sulu Archipelago as well
as local drug trafficking activity, in exchange for cash
payments that help fund their own operations; many ASG
members are drug users themselves. Likewise, NPA cadres
throughout the country earn money to feed their members by
providing protection to drug traffickers and marijuana

20. The Philippine authorities dismantled five clandestine
methamphetamine mega-laboratories and several warehouses in
2007. GRP law enforcement officials cite three factors
behind the existence of domestic labs:

a. The simplicity of the process in which ephedrine can be
converted into methamphetamine on a near one-to-one
conversion ratio;

b. The crackdown on drug production facilities in other
methamphetamine-producing countries in the region; and

c. The relative ease, increased profit, and lesser danger of
importing precursor chemicals for methamphetamine production
(ephedrine/pseudo-ephedrine), compared to importing the
finished product.

21. Additionally, corruption and inefficiency in the
judicial process encourage foreign traffickers to establish
their clandestine laboratories in the Philippines vice other
countries in Asia. They are less likely to be caught,
particularly since their communications cannot be
intercepted, and if they are arrested, they are unlikely to
be convicted.

22. PDEA reports that in 2007, authorities seized 328.82
kilograms of methamphetamine, which they valued at USD 38.28
million (at USD 100 per gram), 31.72 kilograms of Ketamine,
which they valued at USD 3.17 million (at USD 100 per gram),
793 kilograms of processed marijuana leaves and buds, which
they valued at USD 396,500 (at USD 0.50 per gram), and 2.536
million plants (including seedlings), which they valued at
USD 11.66 million (at USD 4.60 each). Philippine authorities
claimed to have seized total narcotics worth approximately
USD 53,486,500, arrested 5,489 people for drug related
offenses, and filed 3,359 criminal cases for drug crimes in
2007. By comparison, 8,616 individuals were arrested in
2006. Out of 13,667 drug cases filed from 2003 to 2007, only
4,790 led to convictions (most of which were cases of simple
possession). The rest were either acquitted or dismissed.
PRC- and Taiwan-based traffickers remain the most influential
foreign groups operating in the Philippines.


23. Corruption among the police, judiciary, and elected
officials continues to be a significant impediment to
Philippine law enforcement efforts. The GRP has criminalized
public corruption in narcotic law enforcement through the
Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act (CDDA), which clearly

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prohibits GRP officials from laundering proceeds of illegal
drug actions. Four PDEA employees were arrested in 2006 for
the theft of seven kilograms of seized methamphetamine from
PDEA headquarters. These personnel have been detained and
charges are still pending against them. Ten PDEA and PNP
AIDSOTF officers were arrested in October 2006 for conducting
illegal raids, and for kidnapping the subjects of those
raids. Both the PNP and PDEA have divisions for internal
policing, for corruption, and other violations of policy and
law. There are strong indications that drug money is funding
illicit aspects of provincial and local political campaigns,
such as vote buying, bribery of election officials, ballot
theft, and voter intimidation.

24. As a matter of government policy, the Philippines does
not encourage or facilitate illicit production or
distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drug or other
controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from
illegal drug transactions.

25. No known senior official of the GRP engages in,
encourages, or facilitates the illicit production or
distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other
controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from
illegal drug transactions. However, a city mayor from Quezon
province was convicted in 2007 on charges from a 2001 drug
trafficking investigation, and is now serving a term of life
imprisonment. Numerous other active and former politicians
and officials, some of them senior, have been implicated in
drug trafficking and money laundering, but have yet to be


26. The Philippines is a party to the 1988 UN Drug
Convention, as well as to the 1971 UN Convention on
Psychotropic Substances, the 1961 UN Single Convention on
Narcotic Drugs, and the 1972 Protocol Amending the Single
Convention. The Philippines is a party to the UN Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols
against trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.
The U.S. and the GRP continue to cooperate in law enforcement
matters through a bilateral extradition treaty and Mutual
Legal Assistance Treaty. The Philippines has signed the UN
Convention Against Corruption.


27. DDB reports that there are at least 60 marijuana
cultivation sites spread throughout the mountainous areas of
nine regions of the Philippines, compared with PDEA's
estimate of 120 sites in 2006. Using manual techniques to
eradicate marijuana, various government entities claim to
have successfully uprooted and destroyed 2.536 million plants
and seedlings in 2007, compared with 2.713 million plants and
seedlings in 2006.


28. The Philippines is a narcotics source and transshipment
country. Illegal drugs and precursor chemicals enter and
leave the country through seaports, economic zones, and
airports. The Philippines has 7,000 islands and over 36,200
kilometers of coastline. Vast stretches of the Philippine
coast are virtually unpatrolled and sparsely inhabited.
Traffickers often use shipping containers, fishing boats, and
cargo vessels (which off-load to smaller craft) to transport
multi-hundred kilogram quantities of methamphetamine and
precursor chemicals. AFP and law enforcement marine
interdiction efforts are made ineffective by a lack of
intelligence sharing and basic resources such as fuel for
patrol vessels. Commercial air carriers and express mail
services remain the primary means of shipment to Guam,
Hawaii, and to the mainland U.S., with a typical shipment
size of one to four kilograms. One unique case involved
female airline passengers carrying methamphetamine to Guam,
Hawaii, and California on their person. There has been no
notable increase or decrease in transshipment activities in

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29. The Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act of 2002 includes
provisions that mandate drug abuse education in schools, the
establishment of provincial drug education centers,
development of drug-free workplace programs, the
implementation of random drug testing for secondary and
tertiary students; mandatory drug testing for military and
law enforcement personnel, and driver's license and firearm
license applicants; and other demand-reduction classes.
Abusers who voluntarily enroll in treatment and
rehabilitation centers are exempt from prosecution for
illegal drug use. Statistics from rehabilitation centers
will be submitted later.



30. The USG's main counternarcotics assistance goals in the
Philippines are to:

a. Work with local counterparts to provide an effective
response to counter the still-growing clandestine production
of methamphetamine;

b. Cooperate with local authorities to prevent the
Philippines from becoming a source country for drug
trafficking organizations targeting the United States market;

c. Promote the development of PDEA as the focus for effective
counternarcotics enforcement in the Philippines; and

d. Provide ILEA, JIATF-West, and other drug-related training
for law enforcement and military personnel.


31. The U.S. assists the Philippine counternarcotics efforts
with training, intelligence gathering and fusion, and
infrastructure development.


32. The USG plans to continue work with the GRP to promote
law-enforcement institution building and encourage
anti-corruption mechanisms via JIATF-West programs, as well
as ongoing programs funded by the Department of State (INL
and S/CT, and USAID). Strengthening the bilateral
counter-narcotics relationship serves the national interests
of both the U.S. and the Philippines.


33. The Philippines is not a "Major List" country.


34. There is no domestic production of ephedrine or
pseudoephedrine in the Philippines. Pseudoephedrine is
imported into the country for production of Robitussin DM-P
FS Syrup and Robitussin PS Syrup by pharmaceutical companies.
There is no known case of diversion of ephedrine or
pseudoephedrine since 2004, when the Philippine Bureau of
Customs seized a transshipment of 1,500 kg pseudoephedrine
from China to Australia by a shell company using a forged
importation permit. To ensure ephedrine and pseudoephedrine
are not diverted for illicit use, the GRP law requires all
importers of these two chemicals to register with PDEA so
secure importer's licenses. In addition, for every
importation of these chemicals, an import permit must be
secured with PDEA prior to importation. Upon the arrival of
the chemicals, the Bureau of Customs notifies PDEA for
inspection of imported chemicals, and a second inspection is
also done by PDEA at the storage facility of the chemicals.
No movement of these chemicals is allowed without a permit
from PDEA. Import permits and local permits concerning
transactions involving ephedrine/pseudoephedrine are obtained
via PDEA, and a copy of the import permit is provided to the
appropriate authority of the exporting country.

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