Explainer: How the P9.68-B shabu haul in Batangas was counted

Explainer: How the P9.68 billion shabu haul in Batangas was counted

By: - Reporter / @FArgosinoINQ
/ 05:24 PM April 19, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — Authorities are now dispelling doubts seemingly thrown at the legitimacy of the multi-billion peso drug haul in Alitagtag town, Batangas after its inventory results showed that only around 1.4 tons or around P9.68 billion worth of crystal meth or “shabu” was seized by police last April 15 — a figure far from the estimate of nearly 2 tons or P13 billion earlier given by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

But how was it counted in the first place, who was there, and what happened?

READ: P13-B ‘shabu’ seized by cops in Batangas checkpoint 


Batangas Provincial Prosecutor Atty. Rosa Patulot-Besedillas, one of the witnesses during the official counting, explained that investigators marked the sacks of seized narcotics using the alphabet (or the set of letters from A to Z).


“Ang markings ng investigator magstart sa A up to Z at ang bawat tab ang marking ay A-1 hanggang sa kung halimbawa 20 ang laman edi A-20,” Patulot-Besedillas disclosed in a press conference on Thursday.

(Investigators start with A until Z, and there is a marking on each tab. For example, “A-1,” but if the sack contains 20 packs, then we mark it “A-20.”)

She added that authorities had already finished over two rounds of the alphabet — reaching the “Triple E” mark or 52 sacks by the time President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. arrived at the checkpoint. The total number of bags containing narcotics was 78.

In the same briefing, Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. reiterated that the Batangas police officially counted the confiscated narcotics in front of civilian witnesses and other authorities concerned, adding that it was even recorded on video.

“Ito (illegal drugs seizure) po ay nai-video tape. Kitang-kita po na from the time nahuli, nilagay na po sa kalye. Ito po ay naka-video at naka-tape, lahat, nandoon po ang mga testigo, open po ito sa media for scrutiny from day one,” he said.

(The seizure was videotaped; we can see that from the time the van was flagged down until the drugs were laid down on the road, everything was taped. Witnesses were also there; this was open to the media for scrutiny from day one.)


Citing earlier police reports, Abalos said the inventory was done at the checkpoint along the highway in Barangay Pinagkurusan, the very same area in which the Foton van containing the shabu was flagged down by Alitagtag authorities.

Reports revealed that the vehicle was bound for Parañaque City. The van was in transit heading towards Lipa City when its driver, identified as Alajon Michael Zarate, was instructed to pull over.

How did they come up with the P13.3 billion estimate?

After the narcotics were discovered, Abalos held a short briefing at the scene and gave the estimate of nearly 2 tons or around P13.3 billion from the PDEA, saying that the seized illegal drugs were by the “largest haul” yet by authorities.

He revealed that the packs of confiscated shabu had Arabic instead of the usual Chinese inscriptions, adding that several car plates were also found inside the van.

When asked how authorities came up with this figure, PDEA Deputy General for Operations Assistant Secretary Renato Gumba said they counted the sacks and multiplied it by the average of the drugs contained in each sack to get the estimate of each box, after which they multiplied it again to the current market price of shabu, which is P6.8 million per kilogram.

A day after Abalos disclosed the estimate on April 17, the Philippine National Police (PNP) released a report clarifying that, based on its official count, only around 1.4 tons or P9.68 billion worth of shabu were seized.

Since it was just an estimate, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said that the figure released by the Batangas police was not a corrected version, shutting down any implication that the confiscated narcotics might have already been lessened.

She added that the PNP conducted the counting of drugs two days after it was intercepted, while PDEA testing confirmed that the narcotics were indeed shabu.

Following the results of the official count, records showed that the Batangas P9.68 billion drug bust was the second biggest haul after the confiscation of P11 billion worth of shabu found in 1,589 tea bags seized in Infanta, Quezon province, last March 2022.

Aside from these hauls, authorities also seized 990 kilos of shabu worth P6.7 billion during a buy-bust operation in Tondo, Manila, in October 2022.

Still investigating

Meanwhile, Zarate, the driver arrested during the checkpoint operation, already underwent inquest proceedings on April 16 after he was charged with violating Section 5, Article II of the Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act of 2002.

Calabarzon regional police chief Brig. Gen. Paul Kenneth Lucas revealed in the same briefing that the suspect was a former US Army soldier who enlisted in 1997 but left the service in 2005.

According to Lucas, Zarate returned to the country in 2008 and set up a fitness center in Metro Manila.

READ: Suspect in Batangas ‘shabu’ seizure ex-US Army man 

Aside from the suspect’s arrest, PNP chief Gen. Rommel Marbil said they are conducting follow-up operations to determine if the van was accompanied by other vehicles, but he opted to remain tight-lipped about the details of the ongoing investigation.

Although he did not reveal other details or even the location where it was found, Marbil said the Philippine Coast Guard found a yacht, which came from a foreign country, connected to the seized drugs.

READ: ‘Shabu,’ a journey to a wasted life

For his part, Abalos highlighted the importance of installing checkpoints, especially in coastal areas.

“Marami pa po tayong hinahabol at tinutugis sa ngayon at talagang ito ay masinsin na pinagtatrabahuhan natin. Siguro naman you can digest itong yateng ito at anong naging papel nito,” he told members of the press.

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(We are chasing and hunting down many leads now, and we are working very hard on this case. Maybe you can now digest the connection of this yacht to the case.)

TAGS: Batangas shabu, explainer, shabu haul

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