LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (Mar. 29) — Some 295 poppy plants being raised as cut-flowers were found in a flower garden in Atok, Benguet by policemen on Tuesday.
Atok Police Chief Senior Inspector Marvin Diplat said the poppy plants, were planted in a 50 square meter-cut flower garden in Km 46, Atok, one and a half hour drive from Baguio City.
“Actually, it was planted just beside the national highway (Baguio-Bontoc road or otherwise known as Halsema highway),” Diplat said.
Police investigators said Lilia Kidpalos, 73, a local cut-flower grower planted the poppy plants not knowing it was prohibited.
Diplat said that the poppy seeds came from Kidpalos’ sibling working in London. He theorized that the poppy seeds may have been mistakenly included as cut flower seeds in the package. “How could those prohibited seeds passed through Customs,” he asked.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Cordillera agents confirmed that indeed the plants were those producing opium after some 20 plant samples were tested in Manila.
According to Diplat, the “poppies” have already been harvested once. The flowers might have gone to the market elsewhere including Metro Manila. He believes that Kidpalos planted the prohibited seeds for cut-flower purpose and not for opium production.
“They really look good as flowers, the police officer said. One unsuspecting onlooker really can be captivated not knowing that it is the plant that produces opium,” he added.
Kidpalos first planted the seeds during the last quarter of 2006 and another batch this January.
PDEA-Cordillera Chief Inspector Paul Mencio, said “this is the first time that a poppy plantation is found in the Cordillera, perhaps, first even in the Philippines.”
Mencio, said authorities would destroy the poppy plantation. He added Kidpalos would still be answerable to anti-narcotics law even if she was not aware the plant was illegal.
Atty. Toni Pawi, however, said while intention is immaterial in a special law and mere possession is punishable under the Dangerous Drugs Law, intent to perpetrate opium is still a necessary element. He also said Kidpalos’ sibling in London who shipped the prohibited seed has a bigger problem with the law.
Another lawyer, Edgar Avila said Kidpalos might be exempted from criminal liability due to her age.
Mencio disclosed that opium costs P200 per gram at a 10% purity. # Ace Alegre for NORDIS