Another cop tagged as Mayo’s arrester; solons unconvinced
MANILA, Philippines — A different police officer appears to have been the one who arrested Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo – not the officers first reported to have done so — in a buy-bust operation in October 2022 that yielded P6.7 billion worth of crystal meth, locally called “shabu.”
This is among the new details that emerged on Wednesday at the hearing of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, the committee chair, had asked the subordinates of Capt. Jonathan Sosongco — team leader of the Special Operations Unit of the Calabarzon Police Regional Office (SOU-4A) — if they were behind the filing of cases against Mayo.
One of Sosongco’s team members said that they filed complaints only against Mayo’s accomplice, Ney Atadero — because a different cop was behind Mayo’s arrest.
This apparently surprised Barbers and Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop because, normally, arresting police officers or their team leaders were the ones to file cases.
Who arrested Mayo?
This prompted Acop — a retired police general — to ask Col. Julian Olonan, Calabarzon SOU head, why a different officer, Capt. Randolph Piñon, was tagged as the one who arrested Mayo.
“Why did Captain Piñon file the case? Was he the one who arrested Mayo? Did he execute the affidavit of arrest?” Acop asked.
“Affidavit of arrest was executed by Patrolman Atchuela your Honor, [he] was [part of the] team led by Captain Piñon,” Olonan replied.
“But I thought it was Sosongco who arrested Mayo? I cannot understand the answers you give,” Acop said.
‘Hot pursuit’ or buy-bust?
At the first hearing of the committee, Olonan told Barbers, Acop, and other lawmakers that he had received a report from Sosongco that Mayo was caught in a buy-bust operation.
A follow-up operation was eventually launched leading to the discovery of at least 990 kilograms of crystal meth in Mayo’s WPD Lending office in Tondo, Manila.
However, controversy ensued when police officials speculated if Mayo could be used for another follow-up operation, this time in Pasig. Footage from closed-circuit television cameras showed Mayo without his handcuffs even though he had already been arrested.
Acop became livid at Olonan when he asked what specific cases were filed against Mayo — to which the police officer said that it was for “hot pursuit.” The lawmaker, who is also a lawyer by profession, stressed that there could be no case filed from a “hot pursuit” as it was not a violation.
Olonan maintained that Mayo was arrested in a hot pursuit operation and not a buy-bust — leading Acop and Barbers to marvel at the new information, given that initially, there were reports that Mayo was already under police custody as early as 1:00 p.m.
Both were unconvinced that Piñon was behind the arrest, especially when the police captain admitted that he was not part of the pre-operation planning and that he arrived at the scene after 4:00 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2022.
“We were just informed at around four, five [in the afternoon]. You can see in the CCTV that we were only there for additional perimeter security,” Piñon said. “We were present during the inventory of the incriminating documents in WPD Lending, Your Honor.”
Acop then came to the conclusion that the supposed hot pursuit operation was only a plan hatched during a hastily-called meeting, to cover up the police officers’ action of barging into the WPD Lending office.
“I cannot elaborate if it was a meeting. I was just called upstairs,” Piñon said.
“Who called you? What did he say?” Acop asked.
“Police Colonel Olonan, Your Honor. He said that we should conduct a hot pursuit operation,” Piñon answered.
Pressed further as to whether they really conducted a hot pursuit operation, Piñon invoked his right against self-incrimination and asked for an executive session.
“Why are you invoking that when your statement says you did a hot pursuit? There’s no difference, the question of Congressman Acop is if you really did a hot pursuit.” Barbers said.
“Your Honor, if I may request for an executive session,” Piñon said.
The inconsistencies in the arrest of Mayo and the possibility that the seized shabu was about to be recycled are now being probed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Earlier, former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director Wilkins Villanueva admitted informing ex-police chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. that the superior of Mayo — Metro Manila’s SOU head Lt. Col. Arnulfo Ibañez — was also under investigation for possible drug trade involvement.
Azurin, who retired last April 2023, said that it was the reason why he objected to using Mayo for the follow-up operation in Pasig City.