Accompanied by a court sheriff, agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7) on Friday served a court-issued freeze order on the bank accounts of self-confessed drug lord Franz Sabalones.
Executive Judge Gilbert Moises of the Regional Trial Court Branch 18 in Cebu City issued a Provisional Asset Preservation Order (PAPO) upon the request of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
“(The court) finds the petition for civil forfeiture with urgent plea for issuance of a provisional asset preservation order to be sufficient in form and substance, and that there is a probable cause that the subject monetary instruments and proceeds in the name of the respondents are related to unlawful activity or money laundering offense, particularly drug trafficking,” he said in an order.
Moises gave Sabalones 15 days to file a verified comment and/or opposition to the petition filed by AMLC.
At past 2 p.m., the PDEA-7, which earlier requested AMLC to freeze Sabalones’ accounts, served the PAPO to a Wealthbank branch located at the Cebu Business Park and another on Ramos Street in Cebu City where Sabalones has two major accounts.
Officers of the two branches, however, refused to accept the order, saying it should be served at their main office in Manila.
Another PAPO was served at the Banco de Oro-Ramos bank. Its officers accepted the freeze order.
PDEA-7 Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz said copies of the PAPO were also served to the Register of Deeds in Cebu City and Cebu province.
According to Ruiz, Sabalones’ assets have reached about P350 million, which include parcels of land in San Fernando town, south Cebu, and in Barangay Guadalupe in Cebu City.
Ruiz said the purpose of the freeze order is to preserve the assets of Sabalones while an investigation to determine whether or not his properties were acquired through illegal means.
Ruiz clarified that the decision to freeze the bank assets of Sabalones will allow the PDEA-7 to determine if Sabalones is still actively involved in illegal drugs trade.
He warned other drug lords that their assets will also be frozen.
Sabalones was voluntarily surrendered to Police Director Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa in Camp Crame last year after he was linked to the illegal drugs trade.
He was released from the custody because there was still no case filed against him. But the Department of Justice continues to investigate his alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
Cebu Daily News tried but failed to reach Sabalones’ lawyer Louie Arma through the phone yesterday.
In an earlier interview, Arma said Sabalones is no longer involved in illegal drugs.