Amid a tough crackdown on rogue policemen by the Philippine National Police, two former policemen, one nicknamed “Vampire” and another who was even a member of the anti-illegal drugs unit of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), were caught in separate drug busts over the weekend in Cebu City.
Retired cop Joseph Glenn Burlas, a former member of the anti-illegal drugs and intelligence division of CPPO, was arrested past 11 a.m. on Saturday in a drug bust inside a pension house on Juana Osmeña Street, Cebu City.
Burlas, 55, who retired from the police force in 2015 with a rank of Police Officer 1, was nabbed with two others inside the room of the pension house that they allegedly used as their hideout.
Arrested with Burlas were Geofrey Bulado, 50, a cousin of the former policeman and a resident of Sitio Pamutangan, Barangay Jubay, Liloan; and Daniel Aves, 39, of Tres de Abril, Barangay Labangon, Cebu City.
Burlas, a resident of New Frontier Subdivision, Barangay Bulacao in Cebu City, was already holding the rank of P03 prior to his retirement; but because of several unspecified administrative cases, he was demoted twice and was a PO1 by the time of his retirement in 2015, said Supt.
Jason Villamater, chief of the Regional Drug Enforcement Unit in Central Visayas (RDEU-7), who led the drug bust operation.
Confiscated from Burlas and his companions were two medium-sized plastic packets that contained 10 grams of while crystalline powder believed to be shabu valued at P23,000.
Villamater said Burlas, who is now held at the Fuente Osmeña Police Station’s detention center, was placed under surveillance for two weeks before they were able to pinpoint his hideout.
A few hours earlier on Saturday, another ex-cop, Aaron Estarte, 34, a resident of Purok 8, Barangay Kamputhaw, Cebu City, was nabbed at past 7 a.m. in Sitio Maracas, Barangay Lahug, in a drug bust by the drug enforcement unit of Fuente Osmeña Police Station led by the station’s deputy chief, Insp. Gomercindo Mandaue.
Estarte was arrested in a buy-bust operation after a previously arrested drug peddler pointed to him as his source of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride).
Estarte was handcuffed after he received P3,000 in marked money from an undercover policeman. He was found in possession of four medium and three small packets of shabu.
Estarte, speaking to Cebu Daily News while in detention, admitted he went into selling drugs because he was desperate to earn money after he was fired from the police force.
Records from the police showed that Estarte entered the Philippine National Police in 2010 and was assigned at the Regional Public Safety Battalion based in Sibonga town in southern Cebu. But barely a year after, or in November 2011, he was admonished for going Awol (absent without official leave).
By January 2012, he was slapped with an administrative case that was filed by his battalion commander due to repeated unauthorized absences. He was subsequently dropped from the police roll.
Estarte said he tried to plead for his reinstatement, explaining that he was often absent because he had to attend to his pregnant wife, but his plea was rejected.
Mandaue said they learned about Estarte’s drug trade when an arrested drug peddler pointed to a person carrying the alias “Vampire” as his supplier.
Vampire turned out to be Estarte after a series of surveillance operations, Mandaue added.
Chief Insp. Maria Theresa Macatangay, the Fuente Osmeña Police Station chief, said Estarte is considered a “high-level target” considering that he was a former policeman.
Macatangay said they had received reports that there were several policemen in active duty who could also be engaged in the illegal drugs trade, but these were still being verified.
Senior Supt. Eric Noble, CPPO director, lauded the arrest of the two but stressed this would have no bearing on the PNP since they are no longer part of the police service.
Noble also assured that since he assumed office at the CPPO in August last year, they have never stopped conducting internal cleansing.
“Hindi pa rin natin masasabi na talagang malinis na pero continuous yan. Nire-relieve agad sa police station pag may mga kaso o involve sa illegal activities,” Noble said.
(We cannot say that the organization has been thoroughly cleansed of police scalawags, but it’s a continuous action. We immediately relieve from their police stations those who have cases or if they are involved in illegal activities.)
He revealed that there were policemen in the province who went Awol after they tested positive of illegal drugs use, and these policemen are now being investigated.
Those suspected of being involved in illegal drugs are facing investigation handled by Camp Crame, he added.
“Kapag iniimbestigahan na, they are relieved from their post at ilalagay sa PHAU (Personnel Holding Administrative Unit). Yung iba na matitigas ang uli at patuloy pa rin sa illegal nilang gawain gaya ni Ethyl Suico ng Dalaguete, pinapaaresto and hinuhuli agad kahit na active pa yan,” Noble said.
(Once they are under investigation, they are relieved from their post and placed in PHAU. Those hardheaded police officers who still continued with their illegal activities, like Ethyl Suico of Dalaguete, they were arrested and locked in jail even though they are police officers in active service.)
Suico, together with a retired police officer, a dismissed policeman and a brother of a retired police officer, was arrested last May 23 in the southern Cebu town of Sibonga in possession of several guns and ammunition.
At the time of her arrest, she was an active Senior Police Office 1 policewoman assigned in Dalaguete town.
Noble warned police in the province to stop their illegal activities or face consequences.
“Those police officers (who were linked) to illegal activities (are) closely monitored. We are doing all possible actions allowed by law to arrest them and stop them from engaging in notorious activities,” Noble said.