HIGH-PROFILE DRUG SUSPECTS
Law enforcement agencies in Central Visayas arrested three persons — a high-value target believed to be an underling of alleged Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and two Cebuano entrepreneurs — in separate anti-illegal drug operations on Thursday night, just a few hours before the official kickoff of the Sinulog Festival.
The joint operation of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7), the Regional Drug Enforcement Unit 7 (RDEU-7) and Regional Special Operations Group 7 (RSOG-7) of the Police Regional Office-Central Visayas (PRO-7) led to the arrest of businessman Richard Ngo Go, his alleged supplier Niel Benjamin Yap, both for allegedly engaging in the trading of the prohibited party drug ecstasy, and Baysay Custodio, who was linked to the Espinosa drug ring.
The three drug suspects were nabbed in separate operations in the cities of Mandaue and Talisay on Thursday, authorities said.
At 9:45 p.m. on Thursday, PDEA-7 arrested Custodio in Barangay Bulacao, Talisay City.
Custodio, 29, is tagged as a high-value target (HVT) as she was identified with Espinosa, allegedly the top drug operator in Eastern Visayas, who is currently held in police custody, according to PDEA-7 Regional Director Emerson Margate.
Custodio, a native of Leyte and a known cohort of Espinosa, was caught with 250 grams of white crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) with an estimated worth of P1.2 million.
A few hours earlier in Mandaue City, police found in Go’s possession 10 pieces of blue square tablets believed to be Blue Telegram Ecstasy, a plastic bottle of orange liquid substance, a package of orange capsule believed to be Orange Amore Ecstasy and one piece 1,000-peso bill with serial number AG620145 with an X marked placed above boodle money and one mobile phone.
The raid was conducted at 7:40 p.m. in R Suites Cafe, which is owned by Go and which also serves as his residence.
During the initial interrogation, Go allegedly told the police that Yap was his supplier. The police then instructed Go to contact Yap purportedly to buy ecstasy from the latter.
Yap arrived a little after 9 p.m. in R Suites, unknowing that the police were waiting for the transaction to happen.
Confiscated from Yap were three pieces of yellow tablets, two capsules believed to be ecstasy, another 10 pieces of orange capsules, white envelope, P1,500 cash and a mobile phone.
Custodio, Go and Yap are facing charges in violation of Sections 5 and 11 of Article 2 of Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drug Act of 2002.
Custodio is detained at the jail facility of PDEA-7 while Go and Yap are temporarily detained at the Fuente Police Station.
Lawyer Louie Arhmha, Go’s legal counsel, told Cebu Daily News by phone that his client will issue an official statement today (Saturday) regarding his case.
“Mr. Go said he is not guilty. According to him, wala gyud siya’y kalibutan ani (he had no idea about this),” said Arhmha.
Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, regional director of PRO-7, said he has directed RSOG-7 to strictly monitor parties in Cebu in line with Sinulog Festival in the wake of the arrest of Go and Yap.
Espino said party drugs may be distributed during these parties.
“Police are monitoring bars. We warn those who are planning to sell party drugs in bars and other places in parties. Do not do it. We will put you in jail if you are caught selling and buying drugs,” he said.
The arrests of Custodio, Go and Yap come on the heels of the announcement of Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa in continuing Project Double Barrel, the PNP’s flagship project in the Duterte administration’s war against drugs.
The project consists of Oplan High-value Target (HVT), which goes after the “big fish” drug sellers, and Oplan Tokhang, which comes from the Visayan words toktok (knock) and hangyo (plead) or the visitations of police in houses to ask them to surrender.
Espino said Dela Rosa announced the continuity of Oplan Tokhang during their first command conference held in Camp Crame just this month.
Margate said a man posed as Custodio’s buyer in Barangay Bulacao, Talisay City.
After Custodio handed the man 50 grams of shabu, the police swooped in to handcuff Custodio.
“She has been tagged as a HVT and we have been monitoring her since President Duterte took his post as President,” said Margate.
Margate said Custodio is a native of Leyte province although he did not specify which specific town she is from. Margate said that Custodio’s network covers Central and Eastern Visayas. She is a known underling of alleged Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
Go and Yap
In Mandaue City where Go and Yap were arrested, Chief Insp. Emmanuel Gomez, RSOG-7 officer in charge, said a confidential asset informed them about Go’s activities.
“We monitored him and found him to be involved in drug activities which led us to this arrest,” Gomez told Cebu Daily News.
CDN was present during the arrest.
Go was collared on the rooftop of the hotel.
Go’s brother arrived in the scene who asked him if he is involved in the crime. Go denied owning the drugs.
Go’s helper, when interviewed by CDN, defended her boss, saying she did not notice her boss engaging in any illegal activities.
Nancy (not her real name) said Go is a good man, who pays her a weekly salary of P2,000.
Yap, who was identified by Go as his supplier, also denied the allegation.
He said they were only introduced by a third party and they were only transacting in legitimate businesses for almost a year now. / WITH CORRESPONDENT MOREXETTE MARIE ERrAM