Mayo’s boss is also subject of drug probe – Ex-PDEA head tells Azurin
MANILA, Philippines —Former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Wilkins Villanueva on Wednesday admitted informing former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. that the superior of Sergeant Rodolfo Mayo was also being investigated for possible drug trade involvement.
During the hearing of the House committee on dangerous drugs, Villanueva corroborated Azurin’s statement — that he was informed that Mayo and his superior, Lt. Col. Arnulfo Ibañez, were cohorts.
Mayo and Ibañez were both part of the Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group (PDEG) in Metro Manila.
Mayo was arrested with almost a ton of shabu in October 2022.
Villanueva said that he was monitoring the operations on the afternoon of October 8, 2022 which led to Mayo’s arrest in Tondo, Manila.
Lack of developments hours after the buy-bust operation prompted Villanueva to give Azurin the heads up.
Villanueva recalled, “I did not plan to text General Azurin, Sir. But it was almost 9:00 p.m. (but) Nothing has happened in the case of Sergeant Mayo, particularly in the inventory. Because we knew as early as 1:00 p.m. that it was a buy-bust operation. So what does that mean? There is a buy-bust item, and you should do inventory on the place of your buy-bust. That was lost in the story, Sir.”
Villanueva told panel member and Antipolo 2nd District Rep. Romeo Acop in English and Filipino.
“In fact, in the first spot report, Sergeant Mayo was not mentioned. So I said, that’s okay. Maybe it would be a direct filing. But when it was almost 9:00 p.m., there was no inventory, and Sergeant Mayo was still outside […] so I decided, ‘Wait. I will text and tell General Azurin that I am monitoring the operation of the 990 (kilograms) and I included that, ‘Wait, Sir. Ibañez is the boss of Mayo,’ because that is what all of our counter-intelligence information stated,” he added.
Azurin said after receiving this information, he told then PDEG chief Brigadier General Narciso Domingo to refrain from tapping the arrested police official in the follow-up operation as Ibañez might use the situation to neutralize Mayo.
“I received a text message from director Wilkins Villanueva informing me, Sir, that Ibañez was the subject of their ongoing operation and that director Villanueva said that they are suspected of recycling and selling confiscated drugs,” Azurin said.
“That’s why when I called up Domingo and inquired on who would accompany Mayo on the follow up operation, Sir, when I was informed that it was Ibanez, my instincts told me that there might be a plan to silence Mayo, Sir. He might be under a set-up,” he added.
After the operation on October 8, there were talks about using Mayo to pinpoint his possible collaborators and add to the biggest haul of the PNP ever — 990 kilograms of shabu seized from Mayo’s lending office.
But in the process, controversy ensued as recovered closed circuit television camera footage showed Mayo’s handcuffs being removed.
Eventually, another point of discussion in the hearing was about why Mayo was allowed to be the arresting officer in the follow-up operation in Pasig City — despite him being arrested earlier.
The inconsistencies and the possibility of the seized shabu being recycled — after some police officers were seen loading the pieces of evidence into another vehicle — are now being probed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Azurin, who retired last April 2023, said he believed Villanueva’s tip because he does not personally know operatives in PDEG.
“During the validation, we were able to prove that no illegal drugs were obtained from the Pasig operation. A warrant of arrest was implemented against a Juden Francisco, and guns were seized. So that is the reason why I recalled the follow-up operation because of the text message I received from Sir Wilkins,” Azurin recalled.
“It’s the director of PDEA himself who gave the information regarding Ibañez. I do not know every single operative who works for anti-drug operations,” he added.
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