49 cops face raps for drug raid cover-up, pilferage try | Inquirer News

49 cops face raps for drug raid cover-up, pilferage try

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:30 AM April 16, 2023

Maj. Gen. Eliseo DC Cruz. STORY: 49 cops face raps for drug raid cover-up, pilferage try

Police Maj. Gen. Eliseo DC Cruz. (File photo from the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau)

MANILA, Philippines — Forty-nine police officers were found liable for the alleged cover-up of irregularities committed by anti-drug operatives of the Philippine National Police in connection with the seizure of 990 kilograms of crystal meth (“shabu”) worth P6.7 billion and the attempted pilfering of some of the confiscated drugs in October last year.

In a memorandum from the Special Investigation Task Group 990 (SITG 990) dated April 13, the 49 members of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group (DEG) were “found to have committed criminal and administrative liabilities.” They were directed to surrender their firearms.


The memo was signed by Police Maj. Gen. Eliseo Cruz, director of the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, and the head of the SITG 990.


Cruz did not say how the task group arrived at its findings but said that he would elaborate on them at a press conference set for today.

“There we will lay down what the SITG have found out, our recommendations, and other things that we will do,” he said in a phone interview with reporters on Saturday.

Top to bottom

The highest-ranked official cited in the memo was the DEG’s former director, Police Brig. Gen. Narciso Domingo. It also named two colonels, three lieutenant colonels, one major and five lieutenants.

The rest were noncommissioned officers: two chief master sergeants; two senior master sergeants; five master sergeants; three staff sergeants; four corporals; and 21 patrolmen and women.

Of the 49 cited in the memo, Domingo and seven other senior officers, and four noncommissioned officers were mentioned earlier by Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos as having been involved in the “massive cover-up attempt” during the drug raid on Oct. 8, 2022.

The seven officers were Police Col. Julian Olonan, chief of DEG Special Operations Unit (SOU) Region 4A; Lt. Col. Arnulfo Ibañez, officer in charge of DEG SOU National Capital Region; Lt. Col. Glenn Gonzales of Quezon City Police District; Maj. Michael Angelo Salmingo, deputy of PDEG SOU-NCR; Capt. Randolph Piñon, chief of DEG-SOU 4A Intelligence Section; Capt. Jonathan Sosongco, head of the DEG-SOU 4A arresting team; and Lt. Ashrap Amerol, intelligence officer of the DEG Intelligence and Foreign Liaison Division.


The noncommissioned officers were DEG Police Master Sgt. Lorenzo Catarata, Senior Master Sgt. Jerrywin Rebosora, Staff Sgt. Arnold Tibay and Patrolman Hustin Peter Gular.

The list did not include Police Lt. Gen. Benjamin Santos Jr., who was then deputy chief for operations, the third-highest official in the PNP; and Lt. Col. Harry Lorenzo, Manila Police District, Moriones station commander.

Napolcom probe

During a press conference at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) main office in Quezon City on April 10, Abalos ordered the 10 officials of the PNP to go on leave to give way to an investigation by the National Police Commission (Napolcom) of the alleged irregularities committed by the anti-drug operatives during the raid on Wealth and Personal Development Lending Inc. (WPDLI) office in Tondo, Manila.

The company is owned by former Police Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo Jr., an intelligence officer of the DEG’s SOU-NCR who has since been dismissed from the service.

According to Abalos, who is ex-officio chair of the Napolcom, he ordered the inquiry because he was “disappointed” at the slow pace of SITG 990’s investigation.

Abalos showed CCTV footage taken in front of the WPLDI office where the 14 police officers were seen.

He noted that based on the video, the PNP already had custody of Mayo even before the operation, contrary to the DEG report that Mayo was arrested the next day, Oct. 9, 2022, during a hot pursuit on Quezon Bridge in Quiapo, Manila.


Police officers were seen removing the handcuffs on Mayo in at least four instances before he entered the WPDLI office on the day of the raid.

Abalos said Mayo was even listed as an arresting officer in a separate drug operation on the day of the raid even though he had already been caught in a buy-bust operation earlier.

From the CCTV footage, the PNP discovered that at least two DEG officers—Rebosora and Catarata—took 42 kilos before the 990 kilos of shabu were inventoried.

The stolen shabu was recovered on Oct. 15, 2022, in an abandoned car parked along Boni Serrano Avenue in San Juan City near Camp Crame.

Rebosora and Catarata said the shabu they took was to be given as a “reward” to their informant.

In separate press conferences at Camp Crame, Domingo and Santos denied any cover-up and insisted on their innocence and the regularity of their operation.

Domingo said the decision to conceal the arrest and release of Mayo during the operation was part of a “tactical move” to catch bigger personalities involved in the drug trade and was approved by Azurin and Santos.

On Wednesday, Azurin replaced Domingo with Brig. Gen. Faro Antonio Olaguera as DEG director.But Santos on Friday denied he gave any clearance to Domingo’s move.

The only order he said he gave to DEG officers that time was to arrest and to inquest Mayo, after he saw his ID card in a safety deposit box inside the WPDLI office.

On the day of the operation, Santos said he was celebrating his 55th birthday when Azurin called to tell him to proceed to the WPDLI office. He arrived at the scene around 6:20 p.m., about two hours after the buy-bust, and left around 7:40 p.m.

While waiting for the prosecutor to arrive to witness the inventory of the seized drugs, Santos said he “provided guidance” to the police officers to comply with the requirements for the arrested suspects to be booked for inquest, especially to strictly follow the chain of custody of the confiscated drugs. Breaching the chain of custody has been cited as the top reason for courts to dismiss drug cases.

“That is what I insisted. I really had no idea what transpired there. I was just there to congratulate our team because this is a big drug haul, to give them a pat on the back and to ensure that the operation went smoothly and that the cases that we will file will stand,” he added.

Santos said he was also not informed by the DEG of Mayo’s presence at the crime scene, and insisted that he did not see the dismissed police officer. The CCTV footage showed the PNP vehicle used by Santos parked next to the gray van where Mayo was held by the DEG.

Azurin, who will be retiring when he reaches 56 years old on April 24, has been tight-lipped since Abalos’ revelations.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former national police chief, on Saturday urged Azurin to come clean.

“I strongly advise him to speak up to clear the air, clear the doubts, so that this case will be laid to rest,” he said in “Usapang Senado” on dwIZ radio.

Speaking of the other officers allegedly linked to the irregularities in the drug raid, he said he was “extremely outraged to the point that I want to choke these involved police officers.”

“These police officers have total disregard for what is morally right and morally wrong. They have lost their sense of morality,” Dela Rosa said.

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The Napolcom inquiry is on top of the ongoing assessment being carried out by a five-man advisory body formed by Abalos in January to evaluate the links of high-ranking PNP officials to illegal drugs.



Ex-PNP official tagged in drug bust cover-up claims innocence, laments lack of due process

PNP Drug Enforcement Group chief relieved of post over alleged arrest cover-up

PNP welcomes DILG chief’s move to investigate P6.7-billion drug haul case

TAGS: Benhur Abalos, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Narciso Domingo, Philippine National Police, PNP Drug Enforcement Group, police drug raid coverup, Rodolfo Mayo Jr.

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