NCRPO chief struggles to bring drug war to gated communities

MANILA, Philippines – While the so-called "drug war" is continuously intensified across the country as police try to beat President Rodrigo Duterte's new deadline for a drug-free Philippines, Metro Manila cops are encountering unexpected problem areas: gated subdivisions.

In a Rappler Talk interview on Tuesday, March 12, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Guillermo Eleazar said that they have been struggling to get information from these affluent and exclusive communities in the metro.

"Gated subdivisions, for all you know, may gumagamit ng droga diyan, pero hindi maingay, hindi nanggugulo, walang impormasyon (there are drug users there, but they aren't noisy, they are not chaotic, there is no information)," Eleazar said.

This comes as NCRPO cops have seen a rise in the number of seizures of cocaine and party drugs—narcotics that are usually purchased by "can afford" people, as Eleazar described.

The NCRPO chief explained that they could not access information because upscale subdivisions are enclosed and regulated, in stark contrast to less opulent areas. These subdivisions keep strangers out, including cops. (READ: This is where they do not die)

"Kaya naman 'di masyadong marami doon kasi ang ating operation is evidence-based. You cannot operate na wala kang impormasyon, wala kang case buildup at wala kang ebidensya. At madaling makakuha nito sa mga depressed areas," Eleazar said.

(The reason why there aren't a lot of operations there is because our operations are evidence-based. You cannot operate without information, without case buildup, and without evidence. It is easy to get these in depressed areas.)

This is why almost all Tokhang visitations are in poor communities. Cops need information before they come knocking at anyone's door. Cops visited  Forbes Park and Magallanes Village in 2016, but it wasn't to track down drug suspects, but only to conduct an "information dissemination campaign."

Eleazar argued, however, that it does not mean that people in posh residences are immune to investigation. 

He pointed to the police's special units, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Group, and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group as constantly looking for the "big fish" in the anti-drug campaign. Unless these upscale units ask for police help, law enforcers will first act on information that they receive—those that come from poorer communities.

"With the magnitude and so much information that we get, you will act on information readily available, and these are from depressed areas that we easily penetrate," Eleazar said in a mix of English and Filipino. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.

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