Drug tipsters rewarded with drugs, Congress told | Inquirer News

Drug tipsters rewarded with drugs, Congress told

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa and Rep. Robert Ace Barbers. STORY: Drug tipsters rewarded with drugs, Congress told

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa and Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (File photos from the Senate PRIB and Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — There is an unspoken policy among anti-drug enforcement agencies to reward tipsters with a cut of the seized narcotics — between 30 percent and 70 percent — resulting in illegal drugs getting sold back in the streets, lawmakers at the Senate and the House of Representatives have learned in separate inquiries.

The so-called recycling of confiscated drugs as payment for rogue informants sparked outrage among the legislators, with Sen. Ronald dela Rosa calling the scheme “infuriating” at the hearing of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs on Wednesday.


“We are running [in] circles,” a frustrated Dela Rosa, who led the Duterte administration’s drug war as national police chief, said at one point during the hearing.

At the House, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers also spoke about the reemergence of “ninja cops and informants” in the illegal drug trade, with the bulk of narcotic seizures ending up resold.


Despite earlier claims by the Philippine National Police that it had rid its ranks of such rogue members, Barbers, chair of the House dangerous drugs committee, said an informant told him during a closed-door session on Tuesday that the practice had been going on since the early 2000s.

The scheme involves police officers and assets declaring only 30 percent of illegal drug confiscations and reselling the remainder, according to the congressman.

He described his source of information as a longtime Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and police informant who began working as an asset about 20 years ago.

Based on information from the source, Barbers said, ranking officials of PDEA and the PNP Drug Enforcement Group (PDEG) knew of the “unwritten and discreet” policy of rogue agents keeping 70 percent of each drug haul as “savings.”

Barbers said in Filipino: “If this is true, this is a heinous act by these unscrupulous antidrug law enforcers.”

Among law enforcement circles, the recycling of illegal drugs is called the “basura (trash)” system, he said.

“[Informants] are given ‘shabu’ (crystal meth) or part of the evidence for them to sell on the streets. Once converted into cash, [the proceeds] are given back to the rogue operatives,” Barbers said.


The committee had called a motu proprio inquiry following PDEA Director General Moro Virgilio Lazo’s disclosure in February that at least two informants offered him information on huge drug operations in exchange for a 30-percent cut.42 kilos of shabu

At the Senate, Dela Rosa’s committee also looked into Lazo’s statements, as well as the possibility of such reward policy being connected to the 42 kilos of shabu that “mysteriously reappeared” near the gate of the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City in October 2022.

The lawmakers voiced their suspicion that the haul could be part of the purported cut for tipsters as “SOP (standard operating procedure)” in anti-drug operations.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Lazo reiterated that he had rejected the offer and insisted on monetary rewards for informants as provided for under the law.

Pressed for details, Lazo, also a retired major general from the PNP, said he was approached by a friend, also a retired PNP officer, about some tipsters offering him “jobs” or “projects” in exchange for 30 percent of the seized drugs as “incentive.”

“They wanted my personal assurance that they will be given their reward so I had to meet with them, and I asked them about the ’30 percent’ and they told me that is the practice, to use their words. This is also the practice on the other side, referring to the PNP,” he said.

But Lazo’s predecessors at PDEA, Isidro Lapeña, Aaron Aquino, and Wilkins Villanueva, all denied there was such a scheme during their watch.

For his part, Police Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat, head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, confirmed he, too, had received offers from informants wanting a cut of the seized drugs.

“But during those times what we followed [the rule that] for every kilo of shabu seized, we paid informants P50,000,” he said.

‘Like vendo machine’

The PNP “never tolerated” the offers, Caramat said, while admitting that in order for operatives to score big in the drug campaign, the organization needed to spend more.

“The anti-drug operation is like a vendo machine: you put in P20 and you get a candy; you insert P50 and you get a chocolate bar,” he said, adding: “That’s the same situation in the drug campaign—if you want kilos of seizures, you have to pay millions, but if you spend only P10,000, you can perhaps have seizures in sachets. That’s the reality.”

The police official backed the theory of Sen. Raffy Tulfo that the 42 kilos of shabu valued at P285.6 million recovered in the car of a narcotic operative and parked near the gate of Camp Crame on Oct. 15, 2022, could have been intended as the informants’ “reward.”

The shabu was believed to be a portion of the 990 kilos of shabu worth P6.7 billion seized from the Wealth and Personal Development Lending Inc. in Tondo, Manila, the ownership of which was traced to Police Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo Jr., a member of PDEG.

But Dela Rosa noted that prior to the Tondo operation, two Chinese suspects had been arrested in Pampanga province in possession of illegal drugs bearing the same identifying marks and packaging as those seized from Mayo.

“Yet no report came out,” he said, addressing officials of PDEA and PDEG.

“Is it not possible that the drugs seized from the Chinese were those found in the possession of Mayo? Is that not a case of recycling?” Dela Rosa said.

While the former PDEA chiefs had denied the alleged reward scheme for informants, “the testimonies on the seizure of 996 kilos of shabu wherein 42 kilos were set aside, somehow confirms the reward system,” the senator said at the close of the hearing.

Earlier, Dela Rosa ordered the detention of two police officers, Sr. Master Sgt. Jerwin Rebosora and Police Master Sgt. Lorenzo Catarata, for supposedly lying under oath when they were quizzed about their alleged role in the reappearance of the 42 kilos of shabu.

“You were brazenly trying to fool around before this committee. You took your oath and yet, you try to fool me,” Dela Rosa told them.


PDEA: Some tipsters prefer drugs as reward, not money

PDEA chief asked: Why didn’t you question tipsters claiming drugs were offered as reward?

PDEA rewards P67.17-M to law enforcers, tipsters on bigtime ‘shabu’ labs, drug ops

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TAGS: drug informers, Drug war, Ronald dela Rosa
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