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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILLEGAL drug operations may have shifted to Iloilo province following the decline and operations and apprehensions of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Iloilo City.

Paul Ledesma, officer-in-charge of PDEA-6 office, said they reported fewer anti-drug operations and arrests in Iloilo City because of the declining illegal drugs trade in the metropolis.

As of November this year, PDEA mounted 67 anti-drug operations in Iloilo City compared to 113 in 2008.

The number of arrested drug pushers and users also declined to 82 this year from 322 in 2008.

Ledesma said drug syndicates may have shifted their operations to Iloilo province following the series of anti-drug operations in the metropolis.

“The situation in the city became too hot for these syndicates to handle and may have transferred to other places. We continue to monitor their activities wherever they transfer their operations,” Ledesma said.

The PDEA also noticed increased sales of marijuana due to increasing prices of shabu.

Ledesma said the shabu price hike is a result of their operations against the entry of shabu in Western Visayas.

Shabu is now being sold at P10,000 per gram, lower than last year’s price of P15,000 per gram. Marijuana is sold for P40-45 per gram.

Ledesma said they have neutralized 11 of 23 drug dens in the region aside from arresting members of five drug syndicates in Western Visayas.

The PDEA chief said they will intensify their operations to prevent drugs from flooding the region during Christmas season and Dinagyang and Ati-Atihan festivals.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN official of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) turned on human rights groups who are against the random drug testing on students.

Paul Ledesma, PDEA-6 director, questioned why human rights groups are opposing drug tests in schools when these cannot be considered violations of human rights.

Ledesma said the proliferation of illegal drugs is a threat to national security which must be confronted with resolve.

“One of the solutions is to conduct random drug tests in schools to prevent the youth from using illegal drugs. The young people are the main target of drug syndicates,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma also urged private institutions and organizations to adopt their internal drug control policy for their own welfare.

The policy will also prevent human rights groups from intervening in random drug tests and other anti-illegal drugs measures of private and public institutions.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and Department of Health (DOH) have started conducting this month random drug tests on students in Region 6.

Dr. Rex Casiple, CHEd regional office officer-in-charge, said random tests began among students in Aklan and Antique provinces since October 16.

This week, CHEd-DOH teams conducting the tests would be in Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Capiz and Guimaras.

Health and education officials would conduct the testing in 64 schools in Western Visayas – 30 in Panay Island and 34 in Negros Occidental.

Tests were also conducted in five universities in Iloilo City last November 9.

The testing complies with the national government’s directive to heighten the government’s campaign to ensure that all public and private high schools and colleges are drug-free.

The CHEd-DOH teams pick out randomly 10 students from each school from the list of students prepared by school officials. Those tagged for the tests were required to get their parents’ written permission.

The test results are confidential and the results would be forwarded to the CHEd’s national office.

Latest data from PDEA show that 150,000 persons are using illegal drugs in Western Visayas out of the 6.7 million users in the country. (With reports from Bombo Radyo-Iloilo)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WHAT’S wrong with the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC)?

Problems continue to hound the IRC particularly the entry of illegal drugs, deadly weapons and other contrabands.

Reports from the Iloilo capitol and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) point to an inmate and a jail guard as the alleged drug traffickers in the IRC.

PDEA sources said Provincial Guard 2 Ritchelleu Tupas serves as runner of the inmate who is running the drug trade inside the jail facility.

PDEA operatives also spotted Tupas, who is a distant relative of Iloilo Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., in the vicinity of Brgy. Bakhaw, Mandurriao, which is tagged as the illegal drug haven of Iloilo City.

Gov. Tupas yesterday dismissed PG2 Tupas from service not because of his involvement in illegal drugs but because of his prolonged absence sans official leave.

The illegal drug trade in the IRC hugged the headlines anew after two inmates – Jobert Balboa and Cris Talamor – fought over a transaction.

Balboa said he wanted to collect money from Talamor as payment for the shabu which the latter bought.

Balboa even surrendered a sachet of suspected shabu to the IRC guards.

Days after the illegal drugs issue surfaced, more than 800 IRC inmates mounted a noise barrage to complain poor management of the jail.

Chief among the inmates’ plaint, and a perennial concern at that, is the poor quality of food served to inmates despite the multimillion peso budget allocated to the jail facility.

This year, the provincial government set aside P14.6 million for the IRC inmates’ food alone.

The meal plan of the IRC caterer, SLP Canteen, was very mouth-watering.

For breakfast, the menu ranges from rice with egg, rice with dried fish, rice with hotdog, rice with sautéed eggplant, rice with sardines with miswa noodle, rice with corned beef with diced potatoes and yes, rice with ham.

Monggo with pork, laswa with hibe, red beans, pinabket, ground pork with kalobay and pechay, chicken head and papaya and pancit was supposed to be served for lunch.

The dinner course consists of bam-e, dinuguan, chicken, fish paksiw, pork paksiw, pork menudo and fried fish.

SLP Canteen is also the concessionaire of the provincial capitol cafeteria. The caterer provides the IRC food through bidding every three months.

But the discovery of beriberi inside the jail middle of this year showed that the inmates were eating something else.

The inmates complained that they eat tasteless soups, badly-cooked rice and rotting fish.

IRC Warden Soteo Gardose had asked for additional budget for the inmates’ food allowance which is only P40 a day.

Gardose requested the Sanggunian Panlalawigan to increase the food allowance by P10, making it P50 daily, to provide sufficient and nutritious food to the inmates.

PDEA warns bizmen on undiluted product

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will crackdown on manufacturers, distributors and retailers who fail to dilute their toluene-based contact cement, popularly known as “rugby.

In an interview with Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday, Paul Ledesma, PDEA regional director, said rugby sans the 5% mustard oil is now classified a dangerous drug.

“This pursuant to Board Regulation No. 6-2007 of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) due to the prevalent use of rugby as one of the top abused drugs in the country. This regulation covers all importers, manufacturers, distributors, sellers, and handlers of the adhesive,” Ledesma said.

Toluene is also included in the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Cheap and available even in sari-sari stores, rugby has toluene which attracts drug users for its aromatic and addictive properties.

The DDB said there are more than 357 contact cement abusers confined in government and private rehabilitation centers nationwide, with the youngest at 9 years old.

Shabu, marijuana and inhalants, particularly contact cement are the top three abused drugs in the country, according to the 2004 National Household Survey and 2007 rehabilitation facility-based studies conducted by the DDB.

The DDB said habitual users of toluene-based contact cement will suffer brain damage, kidney and liver failure, sight and hearing loss, muscle weakness, leukemia, and death.

Mustard oil is a colorless to pale yellow pungent irritating oil that is obtained by distillation from the seeds, usually of black mustard, after expression of the fatty oil and maceration with water, or through chemical synthesis. It consists largely of allyl isothiocyanate, a volatile compound with a characteristic of pungent odor capable of inducing eye tears

Ledesma said mustard oil dampens toluene’s attractive smell making the contact cement pungent and less desirable to abusers.

“The 5% mustard oil will discourage rugby users from sniffing the contact cement and similar products,” Ledesma said.

The DDB regulation said “the obnoxious odor of the contact cement with at least 5% mustard oil shall be present and maintained from the time of manufacture or importation of the product until the same is utilized by the end-user, and/or the volatility of the mustard oil shall be less than that of the toluene content of the product.”

Ledesma said they will begin the crackdown after they observed that some hardware stores are still selling undiluted rugby.

Atty. Ronnie Delicana, PDEA-6 legal officer, said PDEA can conduct test buys on stores suspected of selling undiluted rugby.

Under the DDB regulation, all contact cement manufacturers who want to be exempted must secure a permit from PDEA.

Manufactures who will violate the regulation will be charged with violations of Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) which has penalties ranging from life imprisonment to death, and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million.

The regulation also orders manufacturers to place the 5% mustard oil additive on product labels, cartons and containers.

“We will be conducting random checks on hardware stores and other establishments selling toluene-based contact cement to find out if they are following the law. Anyway, we have informed them of the new regulation the past two years,” Ledesma said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

BLACK propaganda.

This was the reaction of the New People’s Army (NPA) as regards the claims of the Philippine Army that the rebel group is selling illegal drugs.

In a statement, Ka Ariston Remus of the NPA’s Napoleon Tumagtang Command (NTC) said the illegal drugs yarn is a ploy of the Army to cover up the failures of the 301st Infantry Brigade and 82nd Infantry Battalion in southern Iloilo.

Remus, whose area covers the Southern Front-Panay, said the Army suffered defeats in rebel hands during separate encounters in Igbaras and Tubungan last August 23, 26 and 28 and September 21.

The NPA spokesman said the rebels were unscathed in the said incursions while government troops suffered two deaths.

Also, the NPA said alleged rebels Joel and Rosemary Gabion are civilians residing in Brgy. Tigbanaba, Igbaras.

The Gabion couple allegedly led the Army to a suspected NPA camp in Igbaras where firearms, ammunitions and dried marijuana leaves were allegedly recovered.

Remus said the NPA abandoned the camp and they have no intention to defend to death the said base.

“The Army also spread black propaganda that dried marijuana leaves were found in the NPA camp. This is a big lie and it is clear in our history that anti-social activities and crimes are against NPA principles,” Remus said.

As regards the NPA’s use of land mines, which the Army branded as against international law and inhuman, Remus said they only use command-detonated landmines.

The NPA said the use of command detonated landmines is allowed under the Ottawa Treaty of 1997 which the Philippine government also signed.

“The NPA observes utmost discipline in using command-detonated explosives on actual targets. This is opposite to how the military uses bombs such as 105mm Howitzers which land on Tumandok communities at Brgy. Tacayan, Tapaz, Capiz last June 29,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A 25-year-old man in Pontevedra, Capiz beheaded and cooked the head of his parents Tuesday morning.

Editha Dela Vega, 62, was busy preparing coffee in their kitchen when her son Fernan Dela Vega sneaked behind her and struck her neck with the back of an axe.

As Editha fell to the floor, her husband Federico, 56, a kagawad of Brgy. Limampungan saw the incident and tried to grab the axe from their son Fernan.

But Fernan also pummeled and knocked off his father with the axe.

Renato dela Cruz, a neighbor and relative of the dela Vegas saw the incident and tried to stop Fernan but the latter also chased him with the axe.

Dela Cruz ran to the house of their village chief Rodolfo Balsomo to ask for help. When they returned to the dela Vegas’s house, they witnessed a horrendous sight.

Fernan dragged his Federico’s body outside their house and started to chop his father’s head with an espading (machete).

When the espading failed to severe Federico’s head, Fernan used a knife to complete the grisly ritual.

He then threw Federico’s head into a pot of boiling water and seasoned the broth with salt and vetsin (monosodium glutamate).

The police later arrived and they also saw how Fernan tasted the grisly soup he was cooking.

The village officials and police could not go near Fernan as he kept on threatening to hack them with his weapons.

Armando Blasurca, former municipal councilor of Pontevedra and owner of the lot where the dela Vegas leave, helped convince Fernan to surrender.

Relatives of Fernan said he was admitted to the Regional Mental Health Center in Pototan, Iloilo for substance abuse in 2005.

Back in college, Fernan was hooked on shabu until he developed nervous breakdown. He was later released from the hospital in 2008 after showing signs of improvement.

Prior to the incident, Fernan asked his parents’ permission to go to Metro Manila but they refused.

Fernan is in isolation at the Pontevedra PNP.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) will not re-install a special police task force that will oversee peace and order in the alleged drug haven in Iloilo City.

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said there is no need to reinstall Task Force Bakhaw at Bry. Bakhaw, Mandurriao district even if it has become the purported sanctuary of criminals in the city.

Cuevas said the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) can handle the peace and order concerns of Bakhaw.

The PDEA has classified Bakhaw as one of the drug havens in the city because of the presence of an alleged illegal drugs syndicate in the village.

The village has also been the subject of numerous anti-drug raids by PDEA and PNP. The latest operation netted five suspects caught in the middle of a pot session inside a suspected drug den.

Arrested were Boyet Lupina, 40, owner of the raided house; Merwin Granzon, 30, of Brgy. Tabuc Suba, Jaro and three minors.

Cuevas said they have received reports that members of the Bukas Kotse gang and other thieves hide in Bakhaw.

Cuevas said these car thieves are also drug users, snatchers and robbers who shifted to another strategy to earn money.

During the recent PDEA raid, a pickup truck believed to be used in Bukas Kotse operations was spotted near the alleged drug den.

The owner of the pickup truck is a businesswoman who operates a restaurant in Iloilo City. She has denied allegations that her vehicle is being used by car thieves operating in the metropolis.

Task Force Bakhaw was first formed during the time of then Iloilo City Police Office director Norlito Bautista because of the rampant illegal drugs trade in the village.

The task force was later disbanded following allegations that its members were in cahoots with suspected drug peddlers.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MANY inmates at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) are involved in illegal drug trading.

The BJMP facility at Brgy. Ungka, Jaro, Iloilo City now holds more than 4,000 inmates, according to C/Insp. Gilbert Peremne, BJMP warden.

Some 35% of these inmates are facing illegal drug cases while 20% are charged with murder.

Some 15% of BJMP inmates are facing theft/robbery charges while the rest are accused of homicide and rape.

The rising number of suspected illegal drug traders inside the jail indicates that the illicit trade is now the top peace and order concern in Iloilo, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

PDEA regional head Paul Ledesma said they continue to receive information on suspected drug traders in Western Visayas following the spate of drug busts recently.

The latest suspected drug pusher to fall in PDEA hands is Nicanor Gonzalez Jr., 34, a resident of Punta Dike, Bakhaw, Mandurriao.

Gonzalez is the son of Punong Barangay Nicanor Gonzalez Sr. of Brgy. Fajardo, Jaro and a relative of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez Sr.

PDEA operatives recovered 38 sachets of suspected shabu worth P22,000 from Gonzalez’s  possession.

Ledesma said the suspect even boasted his strong connections to Sec. Gonzalez.

Sec. Gonzalez said he never met the suspect nor did he order Councilor Antonio Pesina to represent the suspect.

The suspect will be charged with maintenance of an illegal drug den.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE relief of a controversial police official in Iloilo City is being linked to the death of an anti-drug agent in 2007.

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, said he received reports that the death of PO1 Frederick Capasao may have something to do with the transfer of C/Insp. Musa Amiyong from Iloilo City to Camp Crame.

Cuevas said Amiyong and several police officers were investigated relative to Capasao’s slay almost two years ago.

“Nothing came out of that investigation as no charges were filed against Amiyong in relation to Capasao’s death,” Cuevas said.

Capasao was formerly assigned with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and was responsible for the arrest of some drug personalities when he was still alive.

Capasao was preparing to report to Camp Crame when an unidentified gunman riddled him with bullets while entering their house in LaPaz in the evening of October 23, 2007.

During an investigation conducted by the House committee on dangerous drugs last March, a confidential PNP intelligence report surfaced and pointed to unnamed police officers as the suspects in Capasao’s killing.

When asked if the Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force recommended Amiyong’s relief, Cuevas said he was unsure because he only received the relief order from Camp Crame Wednesday morning.

Cuevas said he even called Amiyong and told the latter to immediately report to the national command lest he will be marked absent without official leave.

“With his relief, C/Insp. Amiyong will be given the chance to defend himself from any charges or case,” Cuevas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A TASK force dedicated to the fight against illegal drugs recommended the relief of a police official as chief of the intelligence section of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO).

The PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF) headed by Police Director Raul Bacalzo reportedly recommended the transfer of C/Insp. Musa Amiyong from Iloilo City to the Holding and Accountability Office in Camp Crame.

Amiyong headed the Intelligence Section or S2 of the ICPO for almost two years. His name has been tagged in the alleged pilferage of fuel at the Iloilo Flood Control Project and the death of PO1 Frederick Capasao in 2007.

Two youth also accused Amiyong of frustrated murder after he allegedly shot them in General Luna Street, Iloilo City August 13, 2008.

Amiyong had denied the charges against him saying some people want him out of the ICPO.

Special Order No. 2384, which directed Amiyong’s transfer from ICPO to Camp Crame effective August 1, was issued July 27, 2009. It was forwarded to the Directorate for Personnel and Records Management (DPRM) for transmittal to Police Regional Office (PRO-6).

But the order got snagged at the DPRM and was sent to PRO-6 only last Tuesday, almost a month after its issuance.

Aside from Amiyong, the PNP national command also ordered the transfer of PO2 Rudy Fancubila and PO2 Remy Donasco to Camp Crame.

Amiyong said his relief is part of his job, welcoming the development as he is set to retire next year.

Sources at the ICPO and PRO-6 claimed that Amiyong’s longevity at the ICPO is due to his closeness to a powerful political figure who once held an influential cabinet post.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MORE than a kilo of dried marijuana leaves was seized by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) members in two separate operations in the cities of Iloilo and Bacolod over the weekend.

PDEA agents recovered some 1.5 kilos of marijuana leaves from suspected pushers Charlito Fantilanan, 23, of Dumalag, Capiz and Rey Ceballos of Delgado-Mabolo, Iloilo City in a buy-bust operation at Brgy. Mabolo-Delgado.

PDEA OIC-head Paul Ledesma said the duo’s buyers were mostly students since the village is surrounded by several universities and colleges.

Pantilanan said a person delivered the marijuana leaves to them but he refused to name the courier.

In Bacolod City, the PDEA also collared Leveo Pericon, 58, of Brgy. Estefania. Recovered from his possession were 31 sticks of dried marijuana leaves and illegal drug paraphernalia.

Ledesma said the arrested suspects in the twin operations were tagged by suspected pushers who were nabbed in previous anti-drug drives in the region.

Meanwhile, PDEA said four major illegal drug syndicates are operating in Iloilo City.

Ledesma said these groups are based in Brgys. Boulevard and Habog-Habog, Molo; Malipayon and Tanza Esperanza, Iloilo City proper; Bakhaw in Mandurriao; and another in Veterans Village in Iloilo City proper.

These villages were also classified by PDEA as heavily affected by the illegal drug trade.

Ledesma said their sustained operations against the illegal drug trade forced pushers to be very careful and stay in their bases of operations. Drug users also avoided going to the four villages lest they will be arrested.

“Instead, they are employing runners who will transport their illegal trade which dents the pusher’s income,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A ONE-time informant of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was riddled with bullets in an area perceived as drug hotspot in Iloilo City Friday noon.

Romy “Toto” Divino of Brgy. Jereos, LaPaz, Iloilo City succumbed to more or less 13 gunshot wounds in his body. He was brought to the West Visayas State University Medical Center but expired there.

Divino was shot by at least two unidentified suspects at Zone 2, Brgy. Bakhaw in Mandurriao district, near the boundary of Jaro and Mandurriao.

Residents around the area where Divino fell said they only heard gunshots but they did not see the actual shooting because they were watching a noontime TV show.

The Mandurriao police headed by C/Insp. Salvador Dagoon at first had difficulty identifying Divino because of the lack of identification papers in his body.

Divino was half naked and wearing a white short. A tattoo of the image of Jesus Christ on his right arm was the only distinguishing mark in his body. His family later confirmed his identity at the hospital.

Paul Ledesma, PDEA OIC director, said Divino gave them information in June 2008 which led to the arrest of two suspected drug pushers from Brgy. Jereos, LaPaz.

Ledesma said Divino relayed the information via phone call.

“I did not meet him because we don’t deal with them personally. If they give us information, our agents will verify the same. And we don’t maintain so-called civilian assets complete with IDs and mission orders because that is prohibited by the PDEA head office,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma said they received reports that Divino is also selling illegal drugs in Jereos.

This piece of information prompted the PDEA to theorize that Divino spilled the beans on his “competitor pushers” in Jereos.

Ledesma also broached the possibility that the illegal drugs syndicate may have killed Divino because he always brags that he is a PDEA asset when he gets drunk.

“If it’s true that he is a pusher, maybe he was getting his supplies in Bakhaw when he was shot. But he is not our asset because he only gave one piece of information last year. Our informants work on many operations, not one-time deals,” he added.

The PDEA has tagged Brgy. Bakhaw as one of the drug hotspots in Iloilo City because of the presence of an alleged drug ring in the village.

Punong barangay Ruby Gallano denied the tag saying they have been working hard to eradicate illegal drugs in their barangay.

FINISHING SHOTS

The Mandurriao police said at least two gunmen killed Divino based on spent shells of caliber .45 and .9mm bullets they recovered from the crime scene.

Dagoon said the suspects may have shot Divino, who was riding a bike at the bridge leading to Jaro area. When the victim ran towards Bakhaw area, they gave chase and continued shooting at him.

There were also reports that the suspects finished off Divino with head shots after he fell to the ground.

The Mandurriao police said they are looking at illegal drugs or personal grudge as motive for the killing because of the numerous gunshots he suffered.

“The shooters were very angry because they shot him several times and even finished him off,” Dagoon said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

AN inmate of the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) is facing another drug case after the recovery of dried marijuana leaves inside his bag.

Ricardo Campos, 50, a native of Brgy. Poblacion East, Oton, Iloilo, has been in detention at the IRC for allegedly peddling drugs.

Campos attended the hearing of his case Thursday morning at the Iloilo Hall of Justice.

When Campos returned to the IRC in Pototan, jail guards Elvert Guides and Johnny Chiva inspected his bag inside his cell and found several bricks of suspected dried marijuana leaves. The Pototan police will submit the dried leaves to the PNP Crime Laboratory to verify if these are indeed marijuana. They may also file more drug charges against Campos if the lab test proves that he possessed marijuana.

How Campos managed to sneak in marijuana inside the IRC remains a mystery.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A MARIJUANA-smoking corpse. A 6-year-old pothead.

These lurid tales pertain to suspected drug pusher in Balasan, Iloilo who was arrested in a buy-bust operation the other day.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) along with the Balasan police and the Regional Anti Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (RAIDSOTF) conducted two buy-bust operations in the town Tuesday.

The first operation in Brgy. Camambugan led to the arrest of Jayvee Gabriel and Johnny Jovito.

The operatives confiscated from Gabriel three small sachets containing suspected shabu and mark money used in the buy-bust.

Paul Ledesma, PDEA regional chief, said they received reports that Gabriel made his 6-year-old grandson smoke marijuana and sniff shabu during their pot sessions.

Three years ago, Gabriel allegedly dug up the remains of a 1-year-old boy, dressed and propped him up his tomb and put a marijuana stick in the corpse’s lips.

Ledesma said the Balasan police confirmed the story on the pot-smoking corpse after the buy-bust operation.

“I felt disgusted when I heard the story. I could not believe that they could do such dastardly act,” Ledesma said in a phone interview.

Another buy-bust operation was conducted in Brgy. Poblacion Sur resulting in the arrest of Bobby de la Cruz, Reynaldo Pendon, John Lester Malata and Arman Diocos

De la Cruz was the subject of the operation while Pendon, Malata and Diocos were inside the De la Cruz’s house during the operation.

The team seizes two sachets of suspected marijuana and a small bag allegedly containing dried marijuana leaves.

The suspects are included in the PDEA watchlist of suspected drug peddlers and users in Iloilo.

Balasan is also the hometown of O’Henry Caspillo and Rolly Tiope whom the PDEA suspected as the top drug peddlers in northern Iloilo.

Caspillo and Tiope, collectively known as the Balasan Boys, became the subject of a congressional inquiry after the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office dismissed the non-bailable charges against them. 

C/Insp. Ramir Gallardo, RAIDSOTF chief, said the suspects belong to the Balasan Boys group which operates in northern Iloilo.

The suspects underwent drug tests before charges for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 were filed against them.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) arrested an alleged top drug peddler in Iloilo City.

Paul Ledesma, PDEA-6 OIC-director, said they collared Reynaldo Avelino of Brgy. San Juan, Molo district in a recent buy-bust operation.

PDEA operatives recovered from Avelino two bricks of suspected dried marijuana leaves and P30,000 cash believed to proceeds of the illegal drug trade.

Ledesma said Avelino is included in their drugs watch list. His area of operation includes the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo.

The PDEA chief said marijuana leaves seized from Avelino are similar to those recovered from drug pushers arrested in the towns of Oton and Barotac Nuevo in Iloilo and Bacolod City.

Avelino allegedly gets his supply from Luzon area.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has one year to ease the drug menace in Iloilo City, particularly nine barangays believed to be hubs of illegal drug trade.

Paul Ledesma, PDEA-6 officer-in-charge, said their central office is pressuring them to reverse the rising trend in illegal drug peddling and use in the city.

“We may not be able to eradicate the problem but we are doing our best to slowdown the illegal drug trade in the city in one year. We are under pressure from our higher ups,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma said nine barangays in Iloilo City are considered the hubs of illegal drug operations in the metropolis.

These villages are Veterans Village, Tanza Esperanza and Malipayon in Iloilo City proper district; Bakhaw in Mandurriao; San Juan, Boulevard and West Habog-Habog in Molo district; Simon Ledesma and Desamparados in Jaro.

The PDEA said the villages were included in the list because of the presence of suspected drug lords and drug dens in the areas.

Ledesma said these barangays were identified during a PDEA-PNP workshop.

Ledesma said he asked the officials of the nine barangays to submit sketches of the house of drug lords and drug dens to help in the campaign against illegal drugs.

He said they need the help of barangay officials because illegal drugs is also the problem of the community.

The PDEA central office will also hold its national campaign plan workshop in Iloilo City this year.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

DEPARTMENT of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. told Iloilo 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. to keep off matters pertaining to Iloilo City.

 

Gonzalez reacted to Tupas’ exposé during the congressional hearing on the Balasan Boys issue on four police officers allegedly involved in the killing of PO2 Frederick Capasao two years ago.

 

Capasao was gunned down outside their home at Brgy. Jereos, LaPaz, Iloilo City by still unidentified suspects onboard a van.

 

During the March 6 congressional hearing at Sarabia Manor hotel, Tupas presented a confidential PNP intelligence report pointing to a police chief inspector and three other cops as having a hand in Capasao’s death.

 

Capasao was once assigned to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea-6) and was responsible for the arrest of an alleged drug lord in Iloilo City.

 

Gonzalez said Tupas has no right to intrude in matters pertaining to the city which is the former’s home and political bailiwick.

 

The DoJ chief said politics is the only motive of Tupas in releasing the intelligence report to the public.

 

“He (Tupas) can release any report he possesses but he should not intervene in the city’s affairs,” Gonzalez said.

 

Gonzalez has been tagged in the attempt to unseat Governor Niel Tupas Sr., Rep. Tupas’ father, January 2007. The justice secretary denied the accusation saying it was the Ombudsman that ordered Gov. Tupas’ removal from office for graft charges.

 

SAME GUN

 

Meanwhile, latest ballistic test results from the PNP Crime Laboratory show that the same gun may have been used to kill Capasao and Honda Cars-Iloilo service manager Rustico Vega January this year.

 

The report said slugs recovered from the Capasao and Vega slayings bore the same barrel grooves or markings.

 

Firearms have unique barrel grooves which become the signature of a particular gun, similar to human fingerprints.

 

The empty caliber .9mm bullet casings in both incidents also bore the same bolt or hammer marks, leading to the possibility that these were fired from the same gun, the ballistic report added.

 

The report bolstered assumptions that a gun-for-hire group is operating in Iloilo City.

 

Vega was shot in front of their office along Benigno Aquino Avenue (Diversion Road) in Mandurriao, Iloilo City last January 9. The case remains unsolved.

 

Senior Supt. Melvin Mongcal, Iloilo City police director, said he has tasked the intelligence section headed by Chief Insp. Musa Amiyong.

 

Mongcal said a group of intelligence officers are tracking down robbery-holdup and gun-for-hire groups in the city.

 

“The special task group even managed to foil an attempt to rob a business establishment in the city last Monday. We are giving special focus on these groups,” Mongcal said.

 

Amiyong earlier riled at reports that he is one of the cops involved in Capasao’s murder.

 

Amiyong challenged his detractors to prove the accusation saying he is willing to leave the PNP if there is solid evidence against him.

Amiyong twits solon on illegal drugs yarn

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE chief intelligence officer of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) is willing to lose his job if his detractors can prove that he is peddling illegal drugs.

 

Chief Inspector Musa Amiyong, ICPO intelligence section (S2) head, said he is challenging his critics to show proof that he is a rogue cop in cahoots with drug syndicates.

 

Amiyong in particular dared Iloilo 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. to buttress the intelligence report linking the former to the illegal drugs trade.

 

“They have an intelligence report then he should prove it. If they have proof, they can charge and have me removed from the service. I am willing to face that if they have sufficient evidence,” Amiyong said.

 

The intelligence report tagged Amiyong in the illegal drugs trade in the municipality of Estancia which is part of Tupas’ district.

 

Amiyong also dared Tupas to pinpoint the drug lords and pushers he is dealing with.

 

“If I am indeed into illegal drugs, I cannot just get shabu from Estancia, throw them to the ground and let drug addicts pick them up. They must prove that I have associates in this alleged illicit business,” Amiyong added.

 

The ICPO-S2 chief also threw the same challenge to his detractors who linked him to the slaying of PO2 Frederick Capasao two years ago.

 

Capasao, who was detailed to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, was shot to death in front of their house reportedly because of his campaign against illegal drugs.

 

Tupas revealed during the congressional hearing on the Balasan Boys controversy two weeks ago an intelligence report linking a chief inspector and three other police officers to Capasao’s murder.

 

But the congressman did not name the persons in the report which came from the Regional Intelligence Division (RID) of the Police Regional Office-6 based in Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City.

 

Amiyong said the PNP should investigate how a confidential intelligence report got into the hands of individuals outside of the PNP.

 

“In the first place, how did it get out of RID? Maybe Rep. Tupas has his own sources reason why he got hold of the document,” Amiyong said.

 

M16 RIFLE VS THIEVES

 

Amiyong also clarified reports that he requested M16 Armalite rifles which they will use to neutralize robbers and thieves preying on Iloilo City.

 

Amiyong said the issue cropped up after he borrowed M16 rifles from the ICPO armory for their operation Monday against a robbery group planning to hit a business establishment in the city.

 

“We borrowed the rifles because the suspects have high-powered firearms while the police only have pistols. We are not allowed to carry M16 because of the one officer-one firearm policy,” he said.

 

Amiyong said he later requested Senior Supt. Melvin Mongcal, ICPO director, to ask Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. to buy more M16 rifles for the ICPO.

 

Mongcal said he tasked Amiyong to lead a team that will collar thieves and hired killers in the city.

 

“The M16 rifles were issued to the team on activity basis. In fact, we were able to foil an attempt to rob another business establishment because of that operation. Chief Insp. Amiyong has not slept because of their follow operations,” Mongcal said.

 

The ICPO intelligence section under Amiyong’s charge has been criticized for failure to preempt the spate of robberies and killings that happened in the city since late last year.

 

Last year, Amiyong was also charged with criminal and administrative raps for shooting two persons whom he allegedly hired to bomb the equipment of a contractor of the Iloilo flood control project. Amiyong had denied the accusations including the alleged bombing of the Korean contractor’s equipment.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) cannot sue the police officers allegedly involved in the death of a police officer who was at the forefront of the anti-illegal drugs campaign in Iloilo City.

 

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said they have no witnesses who can tag four police personnel in the death of PO2 Frederick Capasao more than two years ago.

 

Capasao, who was once assigned at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea), was gunned down in front of their home in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

 

An intelligence report pointed to four police officers – one chief inspector, two police officers 2 and a police officer 1 – of having a hand in Capasao’s death.

 

The report dated February 16, 2008 came from the Regional Intelligence Division headed by Senior Supt. Cornelio Defensor.

 

Cuevas said he read the intelligence report which became the basis of an investigation mounted by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

 

“I had the report validated by ordering the CIDG to investigate the case in coordination with the National Bureau of Investigation which was able to get some witnesses,” Cuevas said.

 

But none of the witnesses, Cuevas said, was willing to execute sworn affidavits which can be used as evidence against the four police officers.

 

Even the wife of Capasao, Marisol, was afraid to issue her sworn statement, the PRO-6 chief said.

 

Cuevas said they cannot determine if the four police officers indeed killed Capasao or were just accomplices.

 

Capasao is one of the police officers responsible for the arrest of suspected drug suspect Cairoden Abdullah in 2005.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE tough but soft-spoken head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) used diplomacy to convince suspected drug syndicates in Iloilo City to stop their trade and live through honest means.

 

Pdea director general Dionisio Santiago said alleged drug lords in the city should turn to legitimate businesses instead of selling substances that destroy mostly the youth.

 

Speaking at the sidelines of the congressional hearing on the Balasan Boys issue Friday, Santiago pointed to a certain Prevendido and a certain Odicta as the alleged drug lords in Iloilo City.

 

“It’s common knowledge that these two are being tagged in the illegal drugs trade although it would be hard to arrest them red-handed because they don’t handle the stuff. And Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. has been very vocal against their operations,” Santiago said.

 

Santiago said they learned that these syndicates have diversified to legitimate businesses because of their alleged illicit operations.

 

Kumikita na sila, why don’t they focus on their businesses instead of continuing with their illegal trades,” Santiago averred. 

 

When asked if narco-politics has already encroached Western Visayas, Santiago said they have received reports of government officials getting support from drug lords “but these must be validated again and again because it would be hard to get evidence against them.”

 

“These are just reports, raw information. We have to get evidence. Knowing is different from proving kasi eh,” he added.

 

The Pdea chief said they are proposing some amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Law so they can pry into the resources and bank accounts of suspected drug lords and their associates.

 

“It’s very circuitous just to take a peek into their bank accounts. If only we could relax some regulations without trampling the right to privacy, we can go a long way in our fight against illegal drugs,” Santiago said.

 

Santiago said they are very careful in releasing information on government officials in cahoots with drug syndicate “because we don’t want to be used during the election season.”

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WHAT did the congressional hearing on the so-called Balasan Boys controversy accomplish?

 

The first hearing held at Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center was led by the House committee on dangerous drugs chaired by Rep. Roque Ablan Jr.

 

The House spent P170,000 for the five-hour hearing which started 2pm to 7pm.

 

The congressmen present in the hearing were Ferj Biron, Elpidio Berzaga, Niel Tupas Jr., Antonio Cuenco, Roilo Golez and Jeanette Garin.

 

At the end of the inquiry, the committee on dangerous drugs chaired by Rep. Roque Ablan Jr. came up with three initial recommendations.

 

The first recommendation made by Garin is to put up a rehabilitation center for drug users in the region.

 

The second recommendation is to assign a special prosecutor who will handle drug cases while the third recommendation is to hold seminar for prosecutors regarding latest rules and regulations.

 

Ablan said they will include the proposals in the committee report on the Alabang and Balasan Boys probe conducted by the committee.

 

Instead of focusing on the Balasan boys, the hearing started off with the white paper circulated by so-called “concerned court employees” at the Hall of Justice. The paper assailed the Iloilo City Prosecutor’s Office and the Department of Justice (DoJ) for allegedly bungling cases it handles.

 

Rep. Cuenco brought up the issue when he read the banner story of The Daily Guardian on the reaction of Iloilo City chief prosecutor Peter Baliao to the contents of the white paper.

 

Cuenco said he was “perplexed by the mysterious” outcome of drug cases that are lodged with the DoJ, particularly the case of Cairoden Abdullah.

 

“I am perplexed with what is happening at the DoJ. These are mysteries that call for justice,” he said.

 

Baliao clarified he had no part in the Abdullah case as this happened before he was appointed chief prosecutor. He also reiterated that the prosecution petitioned the court to dismiss the case on orders of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr.

 

When the hearing focused on the Balasan Boys – O’Henry Caspillo and Noli Tiope – Rep. Biron asked the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) about the piece of paper found in Caspillo’s wallet. The paper contained the names Lusaban and Obsequio which were linked to two members of the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office (IPPO).

 

IPPO chief Prosecutor Bernabe Dusaban and Ricaflor Obsequio attended the hearing to air their side on the cases.

 

Atty. Ronnie Delicana, Pdea legal officer, said they did not include the piece of paper in the case against Caspillo “because there is nothing in that paper.”

 

“We are very neutral about the paper. We cannot imply anything from it that is why we did not include it in the evidence. We were only pressured to release the paper when the media started asking about the names of the prosecutors,” Delicana said.

 

Caspillo, who was present during the hearing, said he was surprised about the presence of the paper in his wallet.

 

Caspillo also denied knowing Dusaban or Obsequio.

 

That piece of paper was prominently featured in the letter of Iloilo provincial administrator Boy Mejorada and the resolution of Cong. Tupas serving as “evidence” of some link between the mentioned prosecutors and the drug suspects.

 

COPS KILLING COP?

 

The hearing also yielded two confidential intelligence reports saying that four police officers were involved in the death of SPO2 Frederick Capasao two years ago.

 

Capasao was once detailed to the Pdea before his death. The intelligence report said Capasao’s death was drug-related because he was active in arresting top drug pushers in the region.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

DOES Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. still have the ears of President Gloria Arroyo?

 

Tupas said he will bring to the President’s attention the Balasan Boys issue when the latter visits Iloilo March 3.

 

Tupas said the Presidential Management Staff informed him that he will meet and greet the President at the Iloilo airport.

 

President Arroyo will visit a call center and the ongoing flood control project during her visit.   

 

The governor said he will tell Mrs. Arroyo about the dismissal of non-bailable charges against Henry Caspillo and Rolly Tiope who were arrested for allegedly selling illegal drugs in Balasan, Iloilo.

 

The Balasan Boys issue is the subject of congressional probe mounted by the House committee on dangerous drugs. The first hearing will be held March 5 at Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center.

 

Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office chief Bernabe Dusaban defended his office from accusations that they are colluding with drug lords in the province.

 

Dusaban said they are giving importance to drug cases filed with their office by carefully examining the evidence and statements presented by authorities.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE House of Representatives will spend almost P200,000 for the first committee hearing on the controversial “Balasan Boys” issue, said 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr.

 

Tupas said the House has approved the P170,000 budget for the initial hearing slated March 5 at Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center.

 

The money will be used for the transportation, accommodation and other expenses during the investigation.

 

The committee on dangerous drugs chaired by Rep. Roquito Ablan will spearhead the probe.

 

Balasan Boys refer to Henry Caspillo and Rolly Tiope who were arrested for alleged drug pushing in northern Iloilo last year.

 

The controversy erupted when the provincial capitol withdrew its annual P1.7-million financial assistance to the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office (IPPO) after the latter dismissed non-bailable offenses against the Balasan Boys.

 

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. also exposed that the names of two provincial prosecutors were written on a piece of paper found inside Caspillo’s wallet.

 

IPPO chief Bernabe Dusaban said there was nothing irregular with the dismissal of the cases even as he expressed readiness in facing the House investigation.

 

Aside from Ablan, other congressmen who will attend the hearing are Manny Mamba, Ruffy Biazon, PB Barzaga and Antonio Cuenco.

 

Seven House staff will also join the hearing, Rep. Tupas told Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo.

 

Beautiful poseur-buyer lures suspect to Pdea’s hands

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IT TOOK a beauteous female agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to cause the arrest of one of the top drug personalities in Western Visayas.

 

John Rey Prevendido, 18, of Brgy. Bakhaw, Mandurriao district was arrested inside room 137 of Queen’s Court past 7pm Tuesday following an entrapment operation by the PDEA.

 

A female PDEA member pretended to buy P1,000 worth of shabu from Prevendido.

 

But the suspect took interest in the PDEA agent and told her that he will give her P4,000 worth of shabu for free if she agrees to have sex with him at Queen’s Court motel.

 

The agent informed her superiors about Prevendido’s proposal. A team of PDEA agents then waited at the motel until the pair arrived and entered room.

 

The arresting team barged inside the room after the poseur-buyer signaled that Prevendido was taking a shower.

 

The suspected drug pusher was taken by surprise and did not resist the PDEA members.

 

Recovered from Prevendido was P5,000 worth of suspected shabu.

 

Supt. Roybel Sanchez, PDEA regional director, said Prevendido is one of the top 10 drug personalities in Western Visayas.

 

The PDEA chief also tagged Brgy. Bakhaw, where Prevendido hails, as the top source of illegal drugs in the region.

 

“Bakhaw is the number 1 source of illegal drugs in the region. Persons from other provinces go to Bakhaw to buy illegal drugs. Their sources are from Manila and Mindanao,” Sanchez added.

 

Prevendido is the son of Richard Prevendido who has also been tagged in the illegal drug trade.

 

Sanchez refused to confirm if Richard Prevendido is also included in the watch list of illegal drug pushers.

 

“We will tell everything if we arrest Richard,” Sanchez said.

 

The PDEA is trying to unlock Prevendido’s cellphone to find out his sources and associates in the illegal drug trade.

 

“With Prevendido’s arrest, we believe that the illegal drug trade in Bakhaw will slow down. PDEA will continue to monitor other members of the gang and we will arrest them in time,” Sanchez said.

 

Prevendido was also involved in the shooting of Vincent dela Llana, a grandson of former Iloilo City Vice Mayor Guillermo dela Llana, February 2008 in Molo district. But the charges filed against him were dismissed by the Regional Trial Court.    

 

The Daily Guardian tried to get Prevendido’s side but her refused to be interviewed inside the Mandurriao police jail. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE illegal drugs syndicates are also feeling the pinch of the global economic crisis, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA-6).

 

Supt. Roybel Sanchez, PDEA-6 regional director, said shabu sold on the streets are laced with chemicals such as tawas or alum and naphthalene after raw materials for the “poor man’s cocaine” increased.

 

Naphthalene is the main ingredient of insect repellants.

 

Sanchez said the increase in prices of shabu chemicals could be attributed to the global financial crisis and intensified campaign against illegal drugs.

 

The PDEA chief warned drug users that shabu sold nowadays are more dangerous because of tawas and naphthalene.

 

Based on their monitoring reports, Sanchez said shabu is sold at P12, 000 to P15, 000 per gram.

 

Drug users have now shifted to Ecstacy and cocaine which are relatively cheaper than shabu.

 

Sanchez said they are also monitoring the entry of prohibited substances in Jaro, Iloilo City which will celebrate its annual fiesta Monday.

 

The PDEA chief said several drug personalities were spotted in Jaro district.

 

REWARD

 

The Iloilo provincial Capitol will allocate P1 million in support of the “all-out-war” against the illegal drug trade.

 

Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. yesterday directed all chiefs of police in 42 municipalities and one component city to “wipe out” illegal drugs in the province, which he described as the biggest menace to society.

 

“Illegal drugs pose the biggest threat to our people,” Tupas told a command conference held at the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) at Camp Sumagaysay, Sta. Barbara.

 

“We have to throw everything we’ve got at these drug syndicates,” he added.

 

Tupas said he will accept no excuses for failure because the perennial problem of inadequate resources will now be addressed by the Iloilo provincial government.

 

The P1-million fund will be utilized for a system of rewards, training and transportation needs of the PNP working in tandem with the PDEA, provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said.

 

Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. (5th district, Iloilo) vowed to secure more budgetary funding for the operations of the PDEA and the Dangerous Drugs Board in the 2010 budget.

 

Describing the present appropriations for PDEA and DDB as “puny”, the younger Tupas said the government is only showing that it is not serious about defeating the drug problem in the country.

The report on the existence of an alleged illegal drug ring at Smallville business and leisure park has spurred police to heighten security in the area even as the PDEA is requesting establishments to submit their workers to drug tests. (Photo by Tara Yap)

The report on the existence of an alleged illegal drug ring at Smallville business and leisure park has spurred police to heighten security in the area even as the PDEA is requesting establishments to submit their workers to drug tests. (Photo by Tara Yap)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WORKERS of establishments at Smallville business and leisure complex in Mandurriao, Iloilo City will be asked to undergo drug tests, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA-6).

Senior Supt. Roybel Sanchez, PDEA-6 regional head, said he personally asked the owners and managers of Smallville to have their employees checked for illegal drugs during their meeting with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas Friday last week.

Sanchez said they cannot avoid entertaining the idea that some of the Smallville employees might be using illegal drugs considering that most of them work from night until the wee hours of the morning.

Sanchez said the drug test will ensure that none of the workers in the popular leisure strip are using prohibited substances.

Smallville hogged the headlines the past weeks after PDEA confirmed the existence of an alleged illegal drug ring inside the area.

Citing two successful test buys and intelligence reports, PDEA officials said shabu, Ecstacy and marijuana are the substances most popular among Smallville patrons who are mostly teenagers and young professionals.

But Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, denied the proliferation of illegal drugs inside Smallville.

Despite their clashing statements, Cuevas, Sanchez and the Smallville establishment owners and managers met at Treñas’ office to discuss possible measures to prevent illegal drugs from proliferating in the popular night spot.

Cuevas said they will put up checkpoints around Smallville even as they will deploy more intelligence personnel to monitor pushers and other criminals.

Councilor Ely Estante, chairman of Task Force Adams Apple which monitors night spots in the city, said it is possible that illegal drugs is circulating inside Smallville.

Estante, who was present in the meeting, said it would be better for the police and PDEA to keep an eye on the leisure park instead of bickering over intelligence reports.

Treñas said Smallville establishments are willing to cooperate with the police in keeping peace and order inside their businesses.

PDEA regional chief Roybel Sanchez

PDEA regional chief Roybel Sanchez

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

HOW do you infiltrate a group of affluent drug pushers and users frequenting a popular leisure strip in Iloilo City? 

For more than a year, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA-6) has been trying to penetrate the illegal drugs ring operating in Smallvile business and leisure park in Mandurriao district.

Supt. Roybel Sanchez, PDEA-6 regional director, said they have confirmed the selling of illegal drugs, particularly marijuana and Ecstasy, at Smallville after two successful test buys.

Sanchez said they tried to go deeper into the syndicate’s operations “but their modus operandi defied our usual approaches.”

“They only deal on the basis of familiarity. If they don’t know you, they will not even talk to you. And they scrutinize if you have the capability to buy or a rich guy,” Sanchez said.

Another problem that hindered PDEA from busting the illegal drug ring is the presence of spotters who monitor intelligence officers.

Sanchez said Smallville pushers maintain a big network of waiters, security guards and employees who help smoke out authorities conducting surveillance operations.

“Unlike our usual operations where we can use just any asset, the case of Smallville needs someone who is familiar to these suspects and a young professional. But who among our professionals is willing to work for us?” Sanchez added.

The PDEA confirmed to the City Peace and Order Council the other day that illegal drugs is changing hands inside Smallville.

Shabu is sold in the popular leisure strip at P10,000 to P12,000 per gram while a gram of marijuana costs P30 or P15,000 per kilo.

The designer drug methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) commonly known as “Ecstasy” can be bought at P1,800 a tablet.

Smallville is home to numerous bars and hotels that have become “hot night spots” in the city. The area is frequented by teenagers and young professionals.

The leisure strip is usually active on weekends and holidays although two to three establishments are considered the most popular.

Smallville is located near suspected drug havens in Brgys. Bakhaw and Taft North also in Mandurriao district.

Sanchez said the sale usually happens inside the establishments or in cars parked in dark portions of the strip.

The PDEA chief said they released the information on the Smallville drug ring “para mabulabog sila (to smoke them out).”

“We can consider the problem as a bit rampant but we continue to monitor and try to bust them,” he added.

Another major problem the anti-illegal drugs agency encountered is that syndicates are also trying to identify or profile their personnel and assets.

“We have new personnel here but we are not exposing them too much in the field because the other side is also trying to profile us. They even have blown up pictures of some PDEA personnel,” Sanchez averred.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas will meet with the management of Smallville establishments today to discuss the problem and hammer out possible solutions.

Treñas said admitting the presence of the drug ring will help the city government and law enforcement units address the menace before it worsens.

“I don’t think this will setback the growth of that area,” Treñas said. 

The Iloilo Hotels Restaurants and Resorts Association headed by Robert Ferrer also assured that their members are doing their share to prevent illegal drugs from penetrating into their businesses.

Smallville with its numerous bars and hotels give much needed break to weary Ilonggo souls. But allegations of an illegal drug ring operating within the complex persist and have reached the attention of authorities. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Smallville with its numerous bars and hotels give much needed break to weary Ilonggo souls. But allegations of an illegal drug ring operating within the complex persist and have reached the attention of authorities. (Photo by Tara Yap)

 

Rich strangers run illicit trade

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Jeehan Fernandez

 

MONEYED outsiders are allegedly peddling high-end drugs in a popular leisure complex of Iloilo City, according to a source involved in the anti-illegal drugs campaign.

Information received by The Daily Guardian from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) officer said drug pushers operating in Smallville business and leisure complex at Brgy. San Rafael, Mandurriao district are not from Iloilo.

The source, who sought anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the pushers came from another province in Western Visayas and belong to affluent families.

This information somehow confirmed the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) report that Smallville is gradually becoming the illegal drugs hot spot of the city.

“We were surprised to discover that the persons we were looking are not the ordinary street pushers that we usually chase and arrest. They belong to classes A and B. These guys are very rich and can afford to stay in posh hotels in the city when they ply their stuff in Iloilo. And their clients are also from the upper class,” the source said.

The informant said rich drug users will only buy from their peers “because they cannot trust ordinary street pushers wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts.”

During the CPOC meeting the other day, authorities from the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) confirmed that the illegal drug trade is thriving in Smallville.

Based on the CPOC report, shabu is sold in the popular leisure strip at P10,000 to P12,000 per gram while a gram of marijuana costs P30 or P15,000 per kilo.

The designer drug Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) or commonly known as “Ecstasy” can be bought at P1,800 a tablet.

Ecstasy is considered the most popular “sex trip” drug among teenagers and young professionals.

Also known as “X-TC”, “Adam”, “Eden Tablet”, yuppie drug and hug drug, Ecstasy was first developed as an appetite suppressant in 1914 by the German company, Merck. In the 1970’s, US therapists led by biochemist Alexander Shulgin used the drug to help patients explore their feelings.

The TDG source affirmed the CPOC report saying Ecstasy is the most in-demand stuff in Smallville.

“We are now profiling the identities of these pushers. They have no records here and even in their place of origin reason why had difficulties spotting them. We are now focusing on the upper level of the illegal drug trade, not just the street pushers,” the source added.

Aside from illegal drugs, Smallville has allegedly become a pick up point for prostitutes in the city.

“Some female drug users need money to sustain their addiction and they resort to prostitution to satisfy their cravings,” the source added.  

Smallville is home to numerous bars and hotels that have become “hot night spots” in the city. Most of the patrons who frequent the area are teenagers and young professionals.

The leisure strip is usually active on weekends and holidays although two to three establishments are considered the most popular.

Smallville is located near the suspected drug havens at Brgys. Bakhaw and Taft North also in Mandurriao district.

Aside from the illegal drug trade, the leisure park’s image has been tarnished by shooting and mauling incidents between rival groups and drunken individuals. The commotions usually begin between 11pm to 2am when the parties are just starting to heat up.

SPECIAL TASK FORCE

Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) OIC-director, said they have been receiving reports on the thriving illegal drug trade at Smallville “but we are continuously verifying such information.”

“As regards the volume, extent and modus operandi of the syndicate, we are still digging into that. Our intelligence operatives are constantly verifying the reports. We cannot yet say if the place is indeed a haven of illegal drugs because we have yet to ascertain its extent,” Tobias said.

Tobias said they are coordinating with the PDEA and the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) in verifying the report and identifying the source and pushers who bring illegal drugs in Smallville.

When asked about the possibility of outsiders running the illicit trade at Smallville, Tobias said such scenario is always possible given its popularity.

The ICPO will form its own special anti-illegal drugs task force to deal with the drug menace, Tobias said.

“This problem cannot be solved by the usual police works. Special operations are needed to root out the problem. The Mandurriao police has been vigorously campaigning against illegal drugs in the area but they will need more help,” he added. 

Tobias said Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Trenas is willing to help the task force in terms of logistics and finances.

VILLAGE HEADS RILE

But Punong Barangay Azucena Tabuyoc of San Rafael, Mandurriao denied the existence of the illegal drug trade at Smallville which is included in their village.

Tabuyoc said she and barangay tanods have been helping the police monitor the peace and order in the area.

“We stay up until 1 am to watch over the place. So far, we have not noticed anything unusual in the place,” Tabuyoc said.

Tabuyoc said the CPOC should have first verified the supposed illegal drug ring in Smallville before releasing the information to the public. She said they were insulted by the information “because it will reflect on our community and residents.”

“Not one of the CPOC members or the police came here to verify the information. Nor were we invited to the meeting,” she added.

The TDG source said the information on the Smallville drug ring was raised by one of the paticipants in the meeting which the PNP and the PDEA also confirmed.

“The information was relayed to the council after the presentation of the illegal drugs scenario by the PDEA,” the source added.

Tabuyoc said she will convene the barangay council to consolidate their stand on the issue and the possible measures they will take.

Tobias said they will coordinate with barangay officials in verifying the information “since they are our partners in this campaign.”

“We will also meet with owners of establishments inside Smallville to discuss possible security measures against the proliferation of illegal drugs there. We would need the cooperation of the community on this and the public must be vigilant also,” Tobias said.

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