Philippine authorities seize largest drug haul this year

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine authorities seized suspected methamphetamine estimated to be worth more than 1 billion pesos ($19.6 million) at a home in the capital region Tuesday and arrested a Chinese suspect, as the president’s crackdown on illegal drugs pressed on in his final months in power.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Wilkins Villanueva said about 160 kilograms (352 pounds) of the suspected stimulant, locally called shabu, was discovered in the house in Valenzuela city in metropolitan Manila after the arrest of the Chinese suspect and his Filipina companion by law enforcers who pretended to be drug buyers.

If the seized substance, some packed in tea bags, turns out to be methamphetamine, it would be the largest illegal drug haul so far this year. Tuesday’s raid was the latest in a series of antidrug operations across the country this month that have led to the arrest of 11 suspects and the confiscation of a large amount of methamphetamine, Villanueva said.

About a week ago, police and anti-drug agents seized 60 kilograms (132 pounds) of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of more than 400 million pesos ($7.8 million) in a raid in Marilao town in Bulacan province near Valenzuela city, police said.

“We told you to stop but you’re just so hard-headed,” Villanueva said at a news conference Tuesday night, addressing drug dealers. “We’ll get to all of you, just wait.”

President Rodrigo Duterte launched a deadly crackdown on illegal drugs at the start of his six-year term in 2016. The campaign has led to the arrest of thousands of mostly petty suspects and the killing of more than 6,200 others in mostly police-enforced operations that have alarmed Western governments and human rights groups. The killings have sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Duterte has denied that he condones extrajudicial killings but has openly threatened drug suspects with death. He has often encouraged police officers to shoot suspects who resist arrest and threaten them.

Duterte, a former mayor who carved a political name with an extra-tough approach to criminality, won the presidency on a vow to eradicate illegal drugs in about three to six months. After failing to fulfill that promise and acknowledging that he underestimated the extent of the country’s drug problem, Duterte vowed to press on with his crackdown until the end of his term in June.