Secret doors: Underground hideout with shabu found in Liloan

By: Apple Ta-as, Carine M. Asutilla August 26,2014 - 09:30 AM

Police open a safety vault found embedded at a staircase containing drugs, money and ammunition located in the underground of a rented house of suspected drug lord Noel Codeniera. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Police yesterday busted a gang believed to be involved in large-scale trafficking of illegal drugs, killing its leader in a gunfight, in Lilo-an town, northern Cebu.

Supt. Rodulfo Albotra, chief of the Provincial Intelligence Branch, said his men were forced to return fire after Noel Codeniera, alias Muslim, fired at them as the raiding team closed in on his hideout in sitio Tabok, barangay Yati.

“He shot at us first. We didn’t have much choice,” said Albotra.

The suspect’s one-story wooden house yielded a hidden room for shabu operations.

Inside what looked like a plain house was a concrete trap door that led to a steep stairwell down to a small basement.

The house had closed-circuit television cameras and motion sensors.

Below, a small room was equipped with ah Intercom phone and a personal refrigerator.

Under the stairway, concealed in a hollow space , police found a steel vault with shabu packs and cash.

Codeniera, the subject of a search warrant issued by Judge Terestia Abarquez-Galanida, executive judge of Mandaue City Regional Trial Court, was fatally hit in the back and chest. He was pronounced dead at the Eversley Child’s Sanitarium in Mandaue City.

Police said they seized a shabu cache valued at P2.1 million, P38,000 cash, two KG9 machine pistols, two .45 cal. Pistols, a .38 cal. revolver and a fragmentation grenade. Chopped up motorcycles were also found in the two-house compound.

Five people, including a pregnant woman, were arrested in the raid.

Albotra said Codeniera had been been under surveillance for about a month following reports about his group’s alleged illegal activities. He said there were also reports that his underlings would indiscriminately fire guns and openly show off firearms in the community.

A successful test-buy with Codeniera led to the application of a search warrant.

The guns, ammunition and grenade were also found in the small room.

Albotra said 150 grams of shabu packed in several plastic bags were seized in the raid.

Romulo Pugoy, barangay captain of Yati, said he had long suspected Codeniera to be involved in illegal activities.

“Many people come to his house, but I didn’t expect that he’s such a big fish,” he said.

Pugoy said Codeniera had been living in the community for about year and was able to acquire the house as well as the adjacent lots.

“Nagkaproblema man gud ang tag-iya sa yuta mao nang napalit dayon niya (The original owner of the property was hard up. That’s why Codeniera was able to acquire it immediately),” he said.

Neighbors said they just called Codeniera “Boss” but he seldom came out of the house.

They said he was friendly and helpful, giving out money to those who asked for his help.

“He is a nice person. We never thought he had that kind of business. But we were often puzzled because he had many visitors everyday,” one of the neighbors said.

A relative of Codeniera was shocked on learning about the raid.

The relative, who requested to remain anonymous, said they only know that he was a jeepney operator who owned two jeepneys plying the Lilo-an-Cebu City route.

Evelyn Pepito, the pregnant woman who was among those arrested, said they were having breakfast when the police came.

She denied any involvement in Codeniera’s activities.

“I’m just here with my boyfriend, who works as a houseboy to Boss Noel,” she said.

Jenny Catayas, also one of those arrested, said she was just a cook.

“We really don’t know about illegal drugs and all the firearms at home,” she said in Cebuano./ with Correspondent Chito O. Aragon

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TAGS: crime, drugs, Lilo-an, Provincial Intelligence Branch, raid

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