THE ARREST of the three soldiers inside a suspected drug den would not affect plans to have Army personnel assist the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in curbing illegal drugs.
1st Lt. Roger Abitria, acting spokesperson of the Cebu-based Armed Forces Central Command, assured the public that the arrest of the soldiers was an isolated case and would not affect the integrity and credibility of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Abitria said that they had their own way of policing and cleaning their ranks.
“We have our own internal cleansing. We are doing our best to keep our ranks clean. Once a year, at the very least, we are conducting a random drug test on our personnel. All those who are caught are no longer in the service,” he said.
He also said that the organization despises those who use drugs in any form.
However, the recent issue involving the three army personnel, he said, saddened them.
“We can say that the system is working because there are those (members of the AFP) who were arrested. We are happy, but at the same time we are sad because of what happened to them. So those are the two sides of the coin,” Abitria said.
Appeal to public
He also called on the public not to immediately cast judgment on the three Army corporals who were arrested for alleged possession of illegal drug paraphernalia last Saturday in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City.
“We are not protecting or cuddling them. However, we are also not duly persecuting them. They will undergo the due process. They will be investigated,” Abitria said in an interview yesterday.
“I’m just being fair to them, giving them the benefit of the doubt. We are not discounting the fact that they may be using (illegal drugs), but we should not persecute them. Let us wait for the official result of the case. We won’t persecute the people who are defending our country, although we are also not going to give them special privileges before the law,” he added.
Corporals Joar Francisco, 34; George Gutierrez, 35; and Edrelle Bayles, 35, were caught in possession of a disposable lighter and a hand-made tube inside a makeshift room believed to be used as a drug den in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City on Saturday.
Guadalupe police caught them red-handed as the police were conducting an illegal gambling raid in the barangay.
Charges were filed against them on Monday before the Cebu City Prosecutors’ Office for violating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, particularly for possession of illegal drug paraphernalia.
Not Centcom men
Abitria clarified that the three soldiers are not under the Central Command but are students of the 3rd Army Training Group located inside Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City.
If found administratively guilty, he said Francisco, Gutierrez, and Bayles may be dismissed from service.
Abitria said the AFP could provide the three soldiers legal counsel.
“Those guys are facing the full force of the law. We will be assisting them insofar (as giving them a legal counsel). They are still human beings, Filipino people, and entitled to counsel. We will be aiding them in those things. But to help them to be acquitted, no,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña also said that the arrest of the three soldiers in Barangay Guadalupe would not affect the deployment of soldiers in Barangay Ermita, Cebu City.
“Why should it affect? Because there are three soldiers who are taking drugs does not mean all soldiers are taking drugs. You cannot run the city that way,” Osmeña told reporters in a press conference Tuesday morning.
He said that soldiers could undergo a drug test if it would be necessary.
“I don’t want to make decisions base on paranoia. Every cluster of population, there is good and bad,” Osmeña said.