By AARON FAVILA
Philippine authorities seized more than half a metric ton of suspected methamphetamine Friday in suburban Manila and arrested six people in what could be one of the largest drug seizures under President Rodrigo Duterte.
National Bureau of Investigation agents initially seized about 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of the substance, locally known as shabu, in six bags and arrested four Filipinos in a car in the upscale Greenhills residential district, metropolitan Manila police spokeswoman Kimberly Molitas said.
Almost simultaneously, other agents raided a nearby house and found about 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of meth and arrested two suspects believed to be Chinese. An initial estimate placed the street value of the suspected meth at more than 3 billion pesos ($60 million).
SWAT and police teams surrounded the house, which was near a main road and a shopping center, while agents examined the bags of drugs, along with drug-making equipment, found in the house and a parked truck.
Officials said the drugs may have been manufactured elsewhere and stored in the house for distribution. The raids were conducted by the NBI backed by other police.
Duterte has been waging a brutal crackdown against illegal drugs since he took office in June. More than 6,000 suspected drug users and dealers have been killed, alarming U.S. and U.N. officials and human rights advocates.
More than 2,000 of the slain suspects died in purported gunbattles with the police, including a detained town mayor, who was said to have hidden a gun and illegal drugs in his cell and reportedly chose to shot it out with policemen in a clash last month that killed him and another inmate in a central Philippine jail.
The NBI, Manila’s counterpart of the FBI, said in an investigation that the mayor was killed in a rubout by the policemen, who raided the jail, but Duterte backed the officers and said he believed their claim that the mayor died in a firefight despite the finding.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein asked Philippine authorities Tuesday to investigate Duterte for murder after he claimed to have killed people in the past and also to examine the “appalling epidemic of extra-judicial killings” committed during his anti-drug crackdown.
Duterte angrily responded to Zeid’s call with an expletives-laden outburst Thursday, saying the U.N. human rights chief has no right to order around a government helping fund the world body.
“You son of a bitch I’m paying your salary,” Duterte said. “You idiot, you don’t tell me what to do.”