Just as President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Cebu is a hot spot for illegal drugs, 50 suspected drug personalities were arrested and an alleged trusted aide of a jailed drug lord was killed in simultaneous operations in Danao City in northern Cebu.
One of the suspects, an alleged “trusted aide” of self-confessed drug lord Alvaro “Barok” Alvaro, was killed in what police said was a shootout in Barangay Looc on Saturday.
Antonio Lopez allegedly tried to fire at the police operatives who were about to arrest him past 10 a.m. yesterday outside his house.
Chief Insp. Gerard Ace Pelare, Danao City Police Office chief, said the suspect was listed only as a street-level target of the police.
However, Pelare said that in their intelligence report, Lopez was among the trusted persons of Barok, who is currently held at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) located in Barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City.
“Actually kadtong sad-sad sa atong kampanya nawala na siya. Nibalik siya recently. Then identified siya as confidant ni Barok,” Pelare said.
(Actually, during our intense campaign against illegal drugs, he disappeared. But just recently, he came back in the city and started selling drugs. Then he was identified as a confidant of Barok.)
The police were able to recover from Lopez a .38-caliber revolver, two live ammunition and 11 pieces of small sachets containing white crystalline substance believed to be shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride), which, based on the valuation table of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), was worth P297,950.
Pelare said that they were also able to recover the cellular phone of Lopez that will be submitted to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory for some tests.
At the same time, the messages and other contents of the phone would be examined to see if Lopez was communicating with Barok.
“Ato ipatan-aw kung naa pa ba silay communication ni Barok considering nga confidant siya ni Barok,” Pelare said.
In several surprise raids done on CPDRC over the last year, the police had uncovered mobile phones and SIM cards inside the cell of Barok, but in all instances, the self-confessed drug lord denied that the items were his.
Barok surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation in Bohol in June last year in the wake of the series of killings of Cebu’s known drug personalities, fearing he would be next.
Barok was then identified as the top drug lord operating in northern Cebu with Danao City as his base.
Barok, who was remanded to CPDRC and for a while guarded by NBI agents, was placed in isolation for several months but has since been placed in a cell with other inmates.
Pelare said he could not conclude if the presence of Lopez in Danao also means that Barok has resumed doing his illegal trade in the city.
“I don’t want to speculate kay wala pa tay intelligence reports. Pero dako kaayo na nga posibilidad nga nagsige gihapon siya (Barok),” Pelare said.
(I don’t want to speculate since we don’t have any intelligence reports on that. But it’s a big possibility that Barok is still doing some illegal activities here.)
Oplan: Limpyo Danao
Lopez and the 50 other drug suspects were rounded up in a series of police operations dubbed as Oplan: Limpyo Danao, which were conducted in Barangays Looc, Taboc and Maslog.
Pelare said that with their new operation, they did not only look for high-value targets (HVT) and street-level targets (SLT) but also targeted drug users.
“Sa una nag-focus ta sa HVT or SLT nga maka-dispose og daghang drugas. Atong ganahan, i-complement pud siya ug ma-reduce ang demand sa drugas,” Pelare said.
(Earlier in our campaign, we focused on HVTs and SLTs who can dispose large quantities of illegal drugs. Now, we like to complement it by also arresting the users and reducing the demand for illegal drugs.)
Of the 50 persons arrested, Pelare said 12 were drug pushers while the rest were all drug users.
This was, by far, the highest number of drug personalities arrested by the Danao City police in just one day.
Aside from pushers and users, the police were able to rescue eight minors aged 13 to 16.
Pelare said that the minors were all found in drug dens during the buy-bust operations.
He said there was no drug or drug paraphernalia found with the minors, but they were still taken into custody since they were present at the drug dens during the time when these were raided by the police.
Pelare said that aside from filing charges of violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, those suspects arrested along with minors would also face complaints for violation of Republic Act 7610, or the Child Abuse Law.
Last Wednesday, President Duterte declared Cebu as a hot spot for illegal drugs in his speech during the founding anniversary of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
Mr. Duterte said Cebu was being used as a transshipment point of illegal drugs intended for different parts of the Visayas.
Pelare said the President has made the right assessment, noting that Danao City could in fact be considered a “transshipment city.”
Since Danao is a coastal city, there were a number of drug pushers who have taken advantage of Danao’s location and had been using the city as its drop-off point for illegal drugs, Pelare said.
At the same, he said, they have received information that a number of drug addicts who had supposedly given up the habit at the height of Operation Tokhang have returned to drug use.
The arrests came on the heels of the admission of Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III that the President was correct in saying that the fight against drugs in Cebu was far from over, despite major gains over the last year.
Elsewhere in the province, at least 15 persons also landed in jail after they were caught in possession of illegal drugs in police operations conducted between Friday to Saturday.
In Talisay City, about 8 kilometers south of Cebu City, the police also scored with the arrest of a young woman who was allegedly a big-time drug pusher during a buy-bust operation in Barangay Tangke at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday that targeted her and her common-law husband.
The woman, Jean Mary Traya Alferez, 18, was caught. But her common-law husband, a Jun Lim Cabanes, eluded arrest, said Supt. Joie Yape Jr., chief of the Provincial Intelligence Branch (PIB) of Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO).
Yape said they placed the couple under a three-week surveillance before they proceeded with the operation that was jointly conducted by the PIB, the Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit, Public Safety Company and the Special Weapons and Tactics, all of the CPPO.
Confiscated from Alferez was a small sachet containing white crystalline substance suspected to be shabu that was used in the buy-bust operation, while found in the house shared by Cabanes and Alferez were 19 other sachets and two medium packs of substance believed to be shabu valued at around P177,000, one disposable lighter, an improvised bamboo stick used a sealer and a weighing scale.
Yape said Cabanes will still face drug possession charges along with his common-law wife as the illegal drugs were found in their home.
Alferez, who was detained at the PIB office, would be transferred later to the Talisay City police detention facility as she awaits the filing of formal charges against her, Yape said.
Two other drug suspects were likewise caught by the Talisay City police in Barangay Tangke during a two-hour anti-drug operation on Friday night.
The suspects, identified as Christian Zafra, 23, and Mercydita Nibato, 32, were caught with a medium pack and 10 small sachets of shabu, said Supt.
Emerson Dante, Talisay City police chief.
In Naga City, 21.7 km. south of Cebu City, two drug suspects — Agusto Bartiana, 37, and Arnel Lipon, 36 — were caught in Barangay Langtad with two medium packs and two small sachets of shabu on Friday night, said SPO2 Lucermindo Banaylo of the city’s police.
Bartiana is a known drug pusher in the area, according to PO3 Michael Villarmia, also of the Naga City police.
In San Fernando town, 29 km. south of Cebu City, drug suspect Richel Laugo, 43, and his live-in partner, Manilyn Alison, 31, were arrested in Barangay North Poblacion with 14 small sachets containing illegal drugs in an operation led by Senior Insp. Aldrin Nalua, the town’s police chief, according to SPO1 Rolando Bastida of the San Fernando police station.
Meanwhile, separate drug busts in Dumanjug town in southern Cebu on Friday also led to the arrest of seven persons.
Among those arrested was Marino Abad, 46, a farmer who was caught in Barangay Balayg Tiki of the town after he sold a sachet of shabu to a policeman posing as buyer, said PO3 Ian Joseph Arapok of Dumanjug police.