Search on for missing ‘shabu’ in P6.7-billion drug haul

By: Frances Mangosing, Marlon Ramos - Philippine Daily Inquirer | April 17,2023 - 08:10 AM

missing shabu

PUZZLER | Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos cites this security camera footage in questioning official reports about an October 2022 raid in Manila that led to the discovery of 990 kilos of crystal meth (“shabu”). The encircled figures are those of police officers whom he wants to be investigated as he suspects of being involved in a cover-up. (Photo from the Department of the Interior and Local Government)

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) is searching for more missing “shabu” or crystal meth believed to be stolen from more than a ton of drugs worth P6.7 billion seized by authorities during a raid in Manila in October last year.

In a press conference on Sunday, April 16, 2023, Maj. Gen. Eliseo Cruz, director of the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, said that the 990 kilograms of shabu reported seized in a raid on Oct. 8 last year were all that was left after the alleged pilferage of the drugs by some operatives of the PNP’s Drug Enforcement Group (DEG).

The total does not include the “more than 42” kilos allegedly taken but later surrendered by two noncommissioned officers, according to Cruz.

“It was 990 kilos, plus the 42 kilos, plus the missing. That’s the mathematical explanation [to] that,” said Cruz, who presented his findings as head of the Special Investigation Task Group 990 (SITG) formed to investigate the raid.

“We have a continuous effort to look for the remaining evidence. We saw the evidence on the CCTV, and looking at the manner of movement or the loading of luggage, [the amount stolen] is not equivalent to 42 [kilos],” he noted.

Head of arresting team

Cruz also identified Capt. Jonathan Sosongco, head of the DEG-SOU (Special Operations Unit) 4A arresting team, as the one who appeared to be calling the shots based on the CCTV footage they reviewed.

The illegal drugs were seized at the office of Wealth and Personal Development Lending Inc. (WPDLI) in Tondo, Manila.

Sosongco led the arrest of Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo Jr., an antinarcotics agent who owned the lending company and is now dismissed from service. Sosongco was among the 49 cops found liable for the alleged cover-up of irregularities in that operation.

Former DEG director Police Brig. Gen. Narciso Domingo, the highest-ranking official tagged in the case, is expected to face stiffer charges for command responsibility.

“I believe he would face stiffer administrative charges because they did not reach that rank overnight. The higher the rank, the higher the accountability,” Cruz said.

The SITG has recommended the reorganization and retraining of the DEG personnel following the alleged cover-up.

It added that personnel assigned to the DEG should undergo careful vetting and a lifestyle check every six months.

Speaker’s concerns

In Congress, Speaker Martin Romualdez on Sunday said he was disappointed about the suspected role of two police generals and other senior PNP officials in the alleged anomalies in the confiscation of nearly one ton of illegal drugs.

According to Romualdez, the investigation into the allegations should be “swift and thorough” as it involved PNP personnel tasked with leading the government’s antidrug operations.

“Let the ax fall where it must because police involvement in this alleged cover-up, especially antidrug operatives, cannot and should not be tolerated,” the Speaker said in a statement.

“While an in-depth investigation to ascertain the truth is being undertaken, measures to reorganize the police force’s drug unit should be implemented,” he added.

“I am dismayed and saddened to learn that some of those accused of alleged involvement are members of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group, the very same people tasked to go after peddlers of illegal drugs,” he lamented.

The Leyte representative said it would also be better for PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. to directly address the issue once and for all.

“Let us wait for official announcements before jumping to conclusions,” Romualdez said.

“While an in-depth investigation to ascertain the truth is being undertaken, measures to reorganize the police force’s drug unit should be implemented,” he added.

Dela Rosa’s advice

Meanwhile, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former PNP chief, gave this advice to cops accused of mishandling the drug seizure: Go to your wife and cry your heart out.

“You should only go to your legal wife,” Dela Rosa quipped, apparently referencing the common notion that policemen have mistresses.

“Go home and stay with your wife… Tell her all your hurts and displeasures. Cry to her,” he said in Filipino during a radio interview.

Turning serious, the former police general-turned-lawmaker said this was actually what he had done when he was bombarded with allegations of human rights violations in leading then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s take-no-prisoners approach against illegal drugs and criminality.

He said the 49 PNP officials linked to the alleged drug pilfering should not be demoralized.

The senator also told them to trust the investigation ordered by Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, who had claimed that some senior police officials were out to sabotage the prosecution of the drug raid.

“If you really did nothing wrong, you should not be afraid. Face the [investigation],” said Dela Rosa, adding that the police officials should be given a chance to defend themselves.

They should not be “prejudged” since their presence outside of the WPDLI office, which was recorded by a security camera, did not mean that they committed a criminal offense, he argued.

“Suspicion does not equate to guilt. Being suspected does not mean you’re guilty already,” the senator said.

“Their being caught in a CCTV footage does not mean they’re guilty. To be fair to the police officers, they should be heard properly before they are judged,” he added.


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TAGS: illegal drugs, Manila, police

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