PDEA shuts down ecstasy lab in Malabon

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Friday, April 13, shut down an ecstasy laboratory in Malabon City, which PDEA called a historic first in the country's anti-illegal drugs campaign.

“This is the first time in the country’s drug law enforcement history that a clandestine ecstasy laboratory was closed down,” PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said in a statement released on Friday.

How did it happen? At 7 am on Friday, PDEA agents, supported by local police, raided a 3-story residence along Dela Cruz Street in Barangay Tinajeros, Malabon City, after spotting "large amounts" of raw materials and chemicals used in the production of ecstasy.

The PDEA noted the confiscation of "safrole," an organic compound which is used as a precursor in the synthesis of ecstasy, amphetamine-type stimulants, and various laboratory equipment and apparatus.

The raid led to the arrest of suspects 53-year-old Jiang Minshan of Fujian, China; and Filipino "driver-cohort" Lauro Santiago alias "Larry Santos," 59.

Second lab down in two days: This is the second illegal drugs lab that PDEA had shut down in two days, after the shabu lab in Batangas on Thursday April 12, which led to the arrest of two Chinese chemists and 3 Filipinos. PDEA-led raids in Lipa City and Tagaytay City in Batangas, also on Thursday, led to the arrest of two more Chinese nationals, and another Filipino.

PDEA said the series of successes should not be surprising as the nabbed operators are part of the same illicit drug trafficking group.

"Minshan, together with the 4 arrested Chinese chemists in Batangas, and Tagaytay, are members of Dragon Wu International Drug Syndicate operating in Asia," PDEA said on Friday

The syndicate, the PDEA noted, traces its roots to the Asian “Golden Triangle” – an area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet, which is notorious as the world's foremost drug-producing region.

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said in the statement that there's "a big possibility" that the Malabon lab was creating "new kinds" of amphetamine-type stimulants

Credit to China: The PDEA thanked the Office of the National Narcotics Control Commission of China for providing "intelligence support" in the Batangas and Malabon operations. 

“A tip-off from [China] was first relayed to PDEA International Cooperation and Foreign Affairs Service that Chinese chemists are flying in and out of the country. The arrested suspects were under surveillance for seven months prior to the operations,” Aquino said.

Citing Chinese intelligence reports, PDEA said the shabu and ecstasy-producing laboratories were established in the Philippines by a "Hong Kong-based drug kingpin or financier" who remains unnamed. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.