TOP-ranked officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the Noynoy Aquino administration, who were the commanders of the PNP’s campaign against illegal drugs, were themselves involved in that heinous crime. They were getting hundreds of millions of pesos in protection money from big-time drug dealers and recycling confiscated illegal drugs to sell to the market.
What is astonishing is that these officials had built a reputation, with the help of a gullible — or paid — media, of being bold crusaders who had succeeded in apprehending ‘level-one” drug distributors and seizing huge amounts of their illegal drugs.
The PNP officials, together with high-ranking Bureau of Customs officials, managed to hold on to their positions during the successor Duterte administration. President Duterte, however, had earlier ordered a top-secret intelligence operation to investigate the officials, not just because of information that he had been given, but also because of reports that despite his intense war on drugs, there were significant amounts of drugs still available in the market. The axe will soon be falling on these officials,
The output of that top-secret intelligence operation was a joint report marked “secret” of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the PNP dated September 12, 2018. The report named these PNP officials, one of whom became a high official of the PDEA, and narrated in detail their criminal modus operandi.
The reality is that these units merely involved “changing names and mandates,” the report noted.
“Officials appointed to these units were the same personalities, creating a pool of agents and personnel who are mostly corrupt and had already created networks with different drug lords across the country and abroad,” the report claimed.
They had managed to continue their heinous activities in the past two years, succeeding in portraying to media and to their superiors that they were raiding the drug lords’ safehouses and seizing millions of illegal drugs.
The reality, however, is that they kept a big part of the confiscated illegal drugs and sold them back to the drug lords or to other syndicates. The report detailed specific instances of such “recycling,” in many cases citing the evidence that the courts found. In one raid of an illegal drug safehouse in January 2016, PDEA and PNP operatives claimed that they seized 26 kilograms of shabu, but actually kept for themselves 19 kgs which they sold to their own drug dealers.
What partly raised Duterte and his close advisers’ suspicion over the commanders of the PNP anti-drug units was the much-publicized arrest in January 2016 of Marine Col. Ferdinand Marcelino at an illegal-drug safehouse in Manila. It was a joint operation of the PDEA-Special Enforcement Service (SES) headed by Col. Ismael Fajardo together with the PNP’s Anti-illegal Drugs Group. Fajardo claimed that Marcelino, who was with a Chinese interpreter, was a protector of a Chinese-named drug lord, Atong Lee, who owned the safehouse.
Marcelino, however, was able to prove in court that he was on an intelligence operation against illegal drugs code-named “Oplan Moses” for the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He claimed he was being framed by the SES, with the knowledge of PDEA Chief Arturo Cacdac because “Oplan Moses” had succeeded in raiding drug warehouses and laboratories, without informing the PDEA. Cacdac was appointed by Aquino in October 2012 and replaced by Duterte a few days after he assumed office.
Marine colonel framed
The Justice department under Aquino charged Marcelino with involvement in the illegal-drug trade, for which he was imprisoned for a year and a half. It was only in May 2017, after court hearings, that he was released from prison, after the Justice department withdrew its cases, cleared him of all charges, and even pointed to evidence that Marcelino was deliberately framed by the PDEA-SES.
For instance, the PDEA-SES even released to media a photo which it claimed showed Marcelino lounging in a sofa in Lee’s place. Marcelino proved it was a photo of him at the lobby of PNP headquarters in Camp Crame. The marine colonel also proved that it was operatives of the PDEA-SES that had brought illegal drugs to the safehouse.
Why would the PDEA go to such lengths to frame a Marine colonel in the thick of an illegal drug operation if they were not protecting the drug lords they served? Duterte’s officials concluded.
The September intelligence report was also partly the offshoot of the hearings of Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Sen. Richard Gordon which investigated reports of a P6.8 billion shipment of shabu that managed to pass through the Bureau of Customs.
In that hearing, Gordon alleged that it was Customs Intelligence Officer Jimmy Guban who facilitated the release of the two magnetic lifters that contained the P6.8 billion shabu form Malaysia. Guban was cited for contempt and detained for a few days at the Senate when he refused to name who the consignee of the shipment was.
The September 2018 report alleged that Guban, a longtime Customs intelligence officer, had been “close to Taiwan and China’s notorious (drug) syndicate members.“
Other than narrating in detail the alleged operations of the PNP and PDEA officials, the report provided evidence of huge unexplained wealth of the four police officials. One of the colonels reported in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) that his net worth was P8 million. The report’s investigation showed that he and his wife owned properties — including a resort — worth well over P100 million.
Do you think that no top official in the previous Yellow Regime—especially Aquino’s buddy from way back, PNP head Alan Purisima — knew about the involvement in the illegal drug syndicates of these high-ranking officials in the PNP and in the PDEA? Was Aquino’s secretary of justice, Leila de Lima, accused of coddling the drug lords and now incarcerated at the Bilibid National Penitentiary, merely following the ethos of the Yellow Regime?
No wonder that after more than two years since Duterte launched his war against illegal drugs, he has yet to vanquish it. How could he if in the six years of the Aquino administration, the very units tasked to go after drug syndicates were in reality members of them?