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Arroyo: Reopen La Union drug case probe

By Gabriel Cardinoza, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:10:00 12/31/2008

Filed Under: Illegal drugs, shabu

SAN FERNANDO CITY?President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Tuesday ordered the reinvestigation of people allegedly involved in the operation of a shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) laboratory that was raided by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Naguilian, La Union, in July.

The President issued the order on the request of La Union Bishop Artemio Rillera, who met with her and drug enforcement officials at the provincial capitol here.

Also at the meeting was La Union Rep. Tomas Dumpit who pointed to the President the summary dismissal of the case by the Department of Justice.

?We are elated by the President?s response to reopen the case,? Dumpit said. ?The President herself called up (Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez) in front of us.?

In a phone interview, the lawmaker said the President agreed to consult Rillera on the probe, including the possibility of creating a new panel whose members would be pre-approved by the bishop.

Charges dismissed

Vicente Sotto III, Dangerous Drugs Board chair, told reporters shortly after the meeting that Ms Arroyo had also ordered the provincial prosecutor?s office here to reinvestigate the case.

On Nov. 12, a three-member prosecution panel of the DoJ dismissed the charges against former Dagupan police chief Supt. Dionicio Borromeo, four policemen and the owner of the lot where the shabu laboratory was located.

DoJ prosecutors found no evidence to warrant the filing of charges against the six suspects, except for Joselito Artus, the laboratory?s alleged financier.

Sotto said the case was first filed at the provincial prosecutor?s office here on July 10, a day after the raid on the laboratory in Barangay Bimmotobot in Naguilian town.

?But it became controversial. There were political allegations. So, Secretary Gonzalez, let the [prosecution panel] handle it,? Sotto said.

He said the President?s order was to return it to the provincial prosecutor, whom the clergy and the people trust. ?Even [local] government officials trust the provincial prosecutor?s office,? he said.

Dismayed

Sotto said he could not blame the bishop and the people of La Union if they were dismayed with the dismissal of the case.

?We were also dismayed because the PDEA worked hard on the case. The Philippine National Police also monitored what happened to build up the case. The police filed the case but it was dismissed. So who wouldn?t be dismayed? he said.

PDEA Director Dionisio Santiago said an interagency task force had investigated the case and made its recommendations. ?But after we filed the case, the ball was no longer in our turf. It?s with the DoJ,? Santiago said.

Transparency

Dumpit said that he and Rillera believed that transferring the case to the provincial prosecutor?s office would ensure more transparency and fair play in the prosecution of the backers of the drug laboratory.

At the meeting, Dumpit said he and Rillera questioned why the DoJ, after creating a 3-member panel, would suddenly appoint a special prosecutor from Pangasinan to investigate the case.

Dumpit said the President was told that if the DoJ had claimed that it dismissed the case against Borromeo and four others for lack of evidence, ?how come the Chinese financier was still under investigation??

Rivals

?Obviously, there was evidence. The DoJ just chose to ignore it,? said Dumpit.

He said a major drug operation like the shabu lab in Naguilan would not have opened in the province without the blessing of the people in power, alluding to two rival politicians in his province.

?They were there at the meeting but they were silent throughout the meeting because the bishop and I did the talking,? Dumpit said.



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