Drugs Board exec cites concert security flaws, starting with dogs
For a ranking official of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), the organizers of the recent Pasay City concert where five people collapsed and died were “ill-prepared” to handle situations involving illegal drug use and did little to mitigate its consequences during the outdoor event.
And it showed even in the dogs they deployed.
“What came out (in the probe) was that they were prepared for terroristic actions, violent acts, but I think they were ill-prepared as far as the occurrence of drug-related situations is concerned,” said Benjamin Reyes, DDB deputy executive director for operations. “Maybe it never occurred to them and this is a wake up call for all of us.”
Reyes was invited by National Bureau of Investigation as an expert source in the ongoing probe of the deaths that marred the May 21 Closeup Forever Summer concert, which seeks to establish if the organizers committed criminal negligence. The NBI and police have confirmed that four of the fatalities took party drugs whose damaging effects on their internal organs were enhanced by alcohol.
According to Reyes, the organizers did not coordinate with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and, contrary to their security plan submitted to NBI, they did not
deploy drug-sniffing dogs.
Instead, they used bomb-sniffing dogs that were provided by the police, he said. “Had they coordinated with PDEA, they could have been provided drug-sniffing dogs,” Reyes said in an interview Monday, when he appeared at the NBI’s Death Investigation Division (DID).
‘No dry runs’
The DDB official also noted that “no dry runs” were held for the security measures involving the police and the bouncers. “It’s the responsibility of the owner and the service provider. We should have an assurance that once you go there to have fun, it should be clean and nothing untoward can happen.”
Earlier, Closeup marketing director Albert Curnelius Tiu Trinidad said safeguards were put up against drug-related activities at the event, and that the security matters were discussed as early as September 2015 with its partner, Activations Advertising.
A security plan earlier submitted by Activations Advertising to NBI-DID showed that it deployed at least three teams of drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs, while about 250 bouncers provided security within the venue—the SM Mall of Asia grounds—and 100 policemen guarded the perimeter.
Told of Reyes’ assessment, Ed Sunico, a spokesperson for the concert organizers, issued a statement on Thursday maintaining that “safety and security have always been our No. 1 priority and, as such significant precautions were put in place throughout the festival.’’
“The management team is deeply saddened by the events that took place at the Forever Summer concert festival,” Sunico said.
How long to take effect
Reyes said the ongoing probe was checking not just the types of the drugs used but also how long it took for the substances to have an effect on the users’ bodies. The NBI earlier announced that the victims took ecstasy, MDMA methylene homolog, “shabu” and synthethic cathinones.
“What’s the window period for these drugs to take effect from the time they were taken?” he said. “For ecstasy, for example, the effect can be felt 30 minutes after ingestion and the peak effect would be after 60 to 90 minutes. Of course, it’s another matter if it was taken on an empty stomach; the effect would be faster. Usually it lasts around two to four hours. Given that, you’ll know the effectivity period of the drug.”
“If we know the time the person collapsed, that means that if you backtrack by four hours, the intake happened during the activity. That’s our assumption,” he said.
The families of three of the fatalities earlier announced plans to file complaints for criminal negligence in the NBI.
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