PDEA agents’ arrest prompts probe of drug ‘recycling’ | Inquirer News

PDEA agents’ arrest prompts probe of drug ‘recycling’

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:50 AM December 09, 2022
The Philippine National Police will investigate whether there is an organized group in the PNP and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) engaged in “recycling” narcotics seized in drug raids following the arrest of a senior PDEA officer and three of his men in a drug bust, a spokesperson for the PNP said on Thursday.

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The Philippine National Police will investigate whether there is an organized group in the PNP and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) engaged in “recycling” narcotics seized in drug raids following the arrest of a senior PDEA officer and three of his men in a drug bust, a spokesperson for the PNP said on Thursday.

The National Capital Region Police Office-Regional Drug Enforcement Unit (NCRPO-RDEU) arrested Enrique Lucero, chief of the National Capital Region-Southern District Office (SDO) of the PDEA inside the unit’s headquarters near Barangay Upper Bicutan on Tuesday this week.

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Also arrested were PDEA agents Anthony Vic Alabastro and Jaireh Llaguno, and their driver Mark Warren Mallo, after a police poseur-buyer allegedly bought “shabu” (crystal meth) worth P100,000 from one of the suspects right outside their office.

“We are looking at the possibility that it is not just Lucero who is the connection of those possibly behind the recycling of drugs in PDEA,” said PNP spokesperson Police Col. Jean Fajardo.

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“So, we are looking, based on the gadgets recovered, which will be the subject of forensic examination, to see if there is additional evidence that would point at the other possible [personalities] involved in the illegal activities,” she told reporters on Thursday.

Fajardo noted that illegal drugs being sold right under the noses of the agencies tasked with enforcing the antidrug campaign was a serious situation that needed looking into.

“Can you imagine the transaction is being done right inside the office? So why are they so brazen? It is really a cause of concern not only for the PDEA but the PNP as well,” she added.

She said the investigation would be coordinated with the PDEA.

Kept as ‘savings’

NCRPO spokesperson Police Lt. Col. Dexter Versola said in an interview with GMA Television earlier on Thursday that they received information that “whenever they confiscate drugs in their anti-illegal drugs operation, they set aside some of them as their ‘savings.’”

The NCRPO said in a report that inside the SDO, the officers seized three small transparent sachets containing around 100 grams of shabu and about 1.25 kilos more in a bigger self-sealing plastic bag with a total street value of P9.18 million.

“But our NCRPO operatives were not expecting to recover this much of shabu from them,” Versola said.

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The officers also recovered a digital weighing scale, four service rifles and four pistols from the suspects, he said.

According to Versola, an informant told them that PDEA agents were selling recycled drugs both inside and outside the SDO headquarters.

Lazo go-ahead

PDEA Director General Moro Virgilio Lazo gave the go signal to the police buy-bust that led to the arrest of his own men.

The arrested PDEA agents detained at the NCRPO-RDEU were not cooperating in the investigation and would only talk to their lawyers, according to Versola.

“We respect their right to remain silent,” he said.

The four men are facing charges of violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2022, including illegal drug trading, which is nonbailable.

The PDEA’s SDO has jurisdiction over the cities of Las Piñas, Makati, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pasay and Taguig, and the municipality of Pateros.

It was involved in the drug agency’s biggest drug hauls this year, including the Nov. 24 seizure of more than P2 million worth of cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia inside a commercial self-storage facility in Taguig City.

Ayala Alabang lab

It was part of the lead team in the Nov. 18 operation that dismantled a shabu laboratory inside Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa City where a total of 22 kilos of shabu worth P149.6 million were seized and three suspects—two foreigners and a Filipino—were arrested.

On July 3, it led an interagency buy-bust operation against Jia Zhu, a Chinese national. Seized from him were 40 kilos of shabu with a street value of P272 million.

Lucero has served in the PDEA since 2008, rising from the ranks to Investigating Agent V, before he was appointed as SDO chief in 2021.

On Nov. 23, he met officers of Ayala Alabang Village Association after the shabu laboratory was dismantled.

On Oct. 18, he was the guest speaker at an event in Barangay Poblacion, Muntinlupa, where he discussed the strengthening of the Barangay Drug Clearing Program and Drug-Free Workplace Program.

PDEA salaries

Lawmakers have filed bills to raise the salaries and benefits for PDEA agents to be on par with uniformed personnel. Under the current law, PDEA agents are not considered uniformed personnel.

A newly hired PDEA Intelligence Officer 1 receives a monthly base pay of P23,877, lower than a new PNP patrolman’s P29,688.

The hike in the salary and benefits for the PNP was used by former President Rodrigo Duterte supposedly to encourage police officers to shun corrupt practices, including robbery-extortion and drug recycling.

RELATED STORY:

PDEA exec, 2 agents arrested in Taguig HQ for selling ‘shabu’

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TAGS: arrest, Crime, Drugs, Illegal drugs, PDEA, recycling
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