Residents shocked after ₱6-billion drug bust in a peaceful neighborhood

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(This story was first published on December 28, 2016)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) —  A peaceful neighborhood in San Juan got a huge shock when authorities raided a townhouse that yielded a massive haul of shabu worth ₱6.0 billion.

The townhouse in San Juan, sandwiched in between residential units, contained the drug manufacturing paraphernalia of a big-time drug syndicate known as Red Dragon.

"Hindi mo rin halata kasi merong batang kasama," Barangay Maytunas chairman Artemio Samson said Wednesday.

"Nakikita ng mga tanod ko pagdating ng gabi. Andun lang sa labas nakaparada; naghahazard. Mamayang konti aalis na. Hindi namin akalain na ginawa palang stock-an ng chemicals," Samson said.

[Translation: You would never suspect it because they had a child with them. The people who patrol at night would notice that there would be cars outside; with their hazard lights on. After a few minutes, they would leave. We never thought that the townhouse was used to stock chemicals.]

Samson said that even the owner of the townhouse was unaware of criminal backgrounds of his tenants, who had been leasing the unit for four years now.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Task Force Against Drugs on Tuesday presented six suspects and displayed 890 kg of neatly packed shabu that they obtained from the townhouse.

After this incident, Barangay Maytunas authorities are planning a house-to-house inspection as 2017 rolls in to make sure that their community is drug-free.

The barangay is peaceful, which may be a reason it was chosen as a location for the drug laboratory.

The NBI said it could be part of the syndicate's strategy to blend into residential communities and spread out the areas where drug manufacturing takes place, to remain inconspicuous.

The drug bust, described by the NBI as the biggest in its history stemmed from a series of operations in the neighborhood in the past days, officials said.

NBI Task Force Against Illegal Drugs Assistant Regional Director Roel Bolivar said Red Dragon leaders seemed to easily source their materials.

Bolivar said the precursors may be imported from China, while other ingredients may have been sourced locally.