Extortionists target drug suspects
SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur—Authorities in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur province, have been receiving complaints about extortion targeting suspected drug users and pushers and threatening them with death if they failed to pay up to P50,000 each.
Tandag City Alexander Pimentel said in a radio interview that some people, who have been tagged as either users or pushers, have complained of getting text messages asking them to cough up cash or risk being killed as casualties of the war on drugs.
Pimentel said the text messages were apparently sent by con artists, who believe they can cash in on the Duterte administration’s brutal campaign against drugs. Pimentel said he was unaware of how the drug suspects’ numbers ended up in the hands of the con artists.
The mayor, however, said suspects should not fall for the trick.
He urged those who received the messages to report to him or to police.
In Rosario town, Agusan del Sur province, some residents said they also got similar text messages but that they were not asked to shell out cash.
Instead, they were warned of harm if they will not surrender through the police’s “Toktok Hangyo” (Knock and Plead) campaign.
The messages forced the residents to present themselves to police even if they are not using or selling drugs, the reports said.
Senior Insp. Christopher John Viajar, the police chief of Rosario, said some people might have been taking advantage of the antidrug campaign to get even with individuals they have feuds with.
But Viajar said the police have a watch list, which was based on consolidated pieces of information gathered from monitoring and coordination with village officials.
He said all that those who received text messages have to do is coordinate with police to know for sure if they are, indeed, on the drug watch list.
In Bunawan town, also in Agusan del Sur, Mayor Edwin Elorde said authorities were serious in combating the drug problem.
“I assure you that in less than six months we can eradicate the illegal drug trade here,” said Elorde, who personally supervises every buy-bust and drug raids in his town, during the mass surrender of at least 761 drug suspects on Friday.
Last year, the local government of Bunawan received citations from the Department of the Interior and Local Government for the most drug raids conducted in the entire Caraga region.
“Do not insult this program because we are really serious here. I’m not afraid of anybody here and I even dare pushers, who threatened to kill village chieftains, to a gun duel,” Elorde said in a speech during the surrender rites. Chris Panganiban, Inquirer Mindanao