Motels and hotels used as drug dens have been on the radar of law enforcers, but the police found yesterday that drug peddlers and users still continue to use this mode to transact drug deals.
A drug bust on Thursday by the drug enforcement unit (DEU) of the Mabolo police led to the arrest of 14 persons found inside five rooms of Prince Court, a hotel located in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City, with about P500,000 worth of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride).
Earlier yesterday, anti-drug enforcers in Lapu-Lapu City also conducted separate operations in two motels on the Mactan Island city and arrested five persons and seized P172,000 worth of shabu.
Among those arrested in the Mabolo raid was Dick Mapalo, allegedly a hired killer and the suspect in the killing of an anti-drug police asset last May 14.
Senior Supt. Joel Doria, director of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), and Yogi Filemon Ruiz, the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7), said in separate interviews yesterday that they would be asking the Prince Court management to explain the involvement of the hotel or its personnel in the drug activities.
“Kasama na sila sa investigation. If ma-prove na wala silang involvement, of course cooperation ang hinihingi natin,” Doria said.
(The hotel management or attendants will be under investigation. But if they can prove that they don’t have any involvement, we will ask for their cooperation.)
Cebu Daily News tried to get the comment from the hotel management to no avail.
But Doria likewise noted that the hotel staff should be the first ones to notice illegal activities inside their establishment and should have immediately reported them to the police, similar to what had been the practice of the staff of other hotels or motels in Cebu.
In this case, the police were alerted of the drug dealings going on at the hotel by a person who was in a relationship with one of the suspects and not from the hotel management.
“Nakikita nila ang mga taong naglabas-pasok diyan and also the security guard. So dun tayo magko-concentrate (The staff and the security guard saw those people who were in and out of the hotel. Our investigation will focus on that),” Doria said.
Doria said the hotel could be charged for maintaining a drug den since the suspects were within its premises.
“It can also lead to the recommendation na ipasara ang establishment if proven na meron silang involvement (It will also lead to the recommendation to close the establishment if it will be proven that they are involved),” Doria added.
Ruiz said he will also ask for an explanation from the hotel management.
He said it will not only be Prince Court but also other motels and hotels in Cebu that were found to have been used as drug dens will be asked by PDEA to explain.
“We will send letters to these hotels and motels asking them why there are still instances and cases their hotels and motels are use for illegal activities,” Ruiz told CDN partly in Cebuano.
On Thursday, the drug enforcement unit (DEU) of the Mabolo police arrested 14 drug suspects inside Prince Court as an offshoot of trailing and trying to arrest Mapalo, the alleged killer of police asset Eduardo Carza on May 14.
The police first caught up with Mapalo on Wednesday afternoon in Barangay Tejero but he managed to elude arrest. However, the police were able to get hold of Mapalo’s .38 revolver, which he threw away when he escaped.
A follow up operation by the DEU led to the arrest of Roem Romero, the common-law wife of Mapalo, who later told police where her husband was staying.
She also told the police that they have been doing their illegal activity inside the same hotel, which the police raided at dawn on Thursday.
Senior Insp. Jackman Aton, Mabolo police chief, said policemen who barged into five rooms of the hotel found some drug suspects in the act of sniffing shabu while others were caught repacking the prohibited substance.
Drug suspects led by Mapalo were apparently making the hotel as their “repacking place.”
“Ara gyud na sila mag sigeg repack ug diha usab na sila mopahigayon sa ilang pagpamaligya (It was in that hotel where they repacked and sold shabu),” Aton said.
Aton said they were able to seize 80 grams of shabu with an estimated value of at least P500,000.
Some hotel personnel could be conduits since some room boys and attendants were nowhere to be found following the raid, according to an DEU personnel who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak to the media.
According to source, these personnel could have acted as lookouts for the drug dealer, the more reason why the hotel management should be investigated.
But the same source said that the manager of the hotel even thanked the police for conducting the operation, disclaiming any knowledge of the illegal activities while acknowledging that some of their staff might be involved.
Doria said they have been conducting drug bust operation on motels and hotels and the number of persons caught in Prince Court was their biggest so far.
The drug suspects are “evolving” and trying to trick police by using motels and hotels for their transaction, Doria noted.
Ruiz said drug peddlers have found hotels and motels safer to transact their nefarious trade since anti-drug raids are often done in the houses of drug suspects.
Both Doria and Ruiz said hotel managements have the responsibility to secure their establishments against these illegal activities.
Doria said the City Intelligence Branch (CIB) has also been briefing the security management of hotels and motels in the city on what to look out for to detect if their establishments are being used for drug activities.
In Lapu-Lapu City, separate raids at dawn on Friday in two motels owned by the Q8 chain in Barangays Pajo and Gun-ob led to the arrest five persons in possession of shabu totaling 172,000, said Senior Insp. Felix Cleopas III, head of the Hoops Dome Police Station who led the operation.
Cleopas said the drug busts happened because of the alert coming from the motel management itself and from a confidential agent.
Cleopas also said the drug peddlers apparently thought they were safer operating their illicit trade inside motels instead of doing it their own houses./With reports from , and XU intern April Alexis Agustin