IN HIS visit to Bacolod City last week, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed that someone has succeeded late Melvin Odicta Sr. as Western Visayas’ top drug personality.
But it appears that Duterte’s source of information is not from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
The regional chiefs of the two agencies tasked to run after illegal drugs said they are still monitoring Odicta’s successor in the drug trade.
Police Brigadier General John Bulalacao, Western Visayas police director, and Alex Tablate, PDEA-6 regional chief, said they subscribe to Duterte’s words that someone has succeeded Odicta.
Bulalacao and Tablate both believe that Duterte has vast information and intelligence resources.
“But we have yet to identify who that is (Odicta’s successor). We are doubling our efforts to identify this person so that we could validate the information of the President,” Bulalacao said.
Bulalacao and Tablate said they are working together to identify the region’s new drug lord even as Duterte warned that Odicta’s successor might suffer the latter’s bloody fate.
Duterte did not offer a clue on the identity of the new drug lord.
“That is also the President’s way of determining if we are efficient in our intelligence gathering,” Bulalacao said.
In the same way, he said that Duterte could be challenging the PNP and the PDEA
“He could have given the information to us but since it came from the President, the operatives might just accept it hook, line, and sinker,” Bulalacao said.
That’s why there’s a need for the PNP and PDEA to do its own monitoring to validate the information.
“So by just telling us that somebody assumed the leadership of the syndicate or who replace Odicta, we must need to identify that person. In that way, the President is also validating the information we received,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tablate said they must be circumspect in their validation.
“Nag-uusap kami ng PNP para matumbok talaga kung sino yun. We know for a fact the President has lots of sources of information. Mahirap namang mag-comment kami ngayon ng hindi pulido,” Tablate said.
Odicta and his wife Merriam were gunned down at the Caticlan jetty port in August 2016, two months after Duterte waged his bloody war on illegal drugs. The suspects remain unidentified.
But just like Bulalacao, Tablate said they are conducting continuous operations against drug personalities in the region.
The PDEA and the PNP recently seized large volume of illegal drugs in several operations in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental.
But this is not conclusive that someone from Negros Island took over Odicta’s post.
“The drug syndicate can operate remotely. He or she could be from Panay but his main operations could be in Negros or even in Luzon,” Bulalacao said.
He cited as example inmates from the National Bilibid Prison who operate their own drug trades.
“Even if they are jailed, they could still operate anywhere in the Philippines,” he said.
While the possibility of large volume of illegal drugs could still sneak into Western Visayas, Bulalacao said their efforts are continuous to arrest those responsible for the drug distribution.
Bulalacao said anti-narcotics officers do more than just seize sachets from both watch listed and newly identified drug personalities.
During the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino rally in Bacolod City on April 10, Duterte vowed that Odicta’s successor will also die.
The PNP subsequently said it is monitoring a major drug syndicate operating in Bacolod City and some parts of Negros Occidental province.
The syndicate is allegedly allied with a couple who yielded P9.6 million worth of suspected shabu or crystal meth and was the supplier of other drug distributors arrested in Bacolod City.