Marcelino presents Army certification during inquest
“I will never betray my country,” former drug buster Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino declared on Friday, a day after he was arrested during a drug raid in Manila that yielded P320 million worth of high-grade “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride).
Although handcuffed, Marcelino, a former head of the Special Enforcement Service of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), raised his fists defiantly, insisting he was on a mission when police and his former colleagues pounced on him and his Chinese companion in an apartment in Sta. Cruz district that turned out to be a clandestine drug laboratory.
“This is the price I have to pay for doing my job for this country. Rest assured that I will never betray this nation,” Marcelino, an officer in the Marines, told reporters as he left the Department of Justice, where he was taken yesterday morning for investigation.
“This is also the price I have to pay for being passionate and for my love to rid this country of illegal drugs. I’m just doing my job. The truth will prevail,” said the former top antinarcotics agent, surrounded by police and PDEA officers.
Dressed in an orange detainee’s shirt and wearing slippers, Marcelino underwent six-hour inquest proceedings before Senior State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva.
He sat beside Yan Yi Shou, a Chinese citizen who was arrested with him during the raid on Celadon Residence apartment block at Felix Huertas and Batangas early on Thursday. Yan is a former interpreter for the PDEA.
The two are facing no-bail charges for manufacturing, conspiring to manufacture and possession of illegal drugs.
Police and PDEA agents seized 64 kilos of shabu (also known as crystal meth), chemicals and equipment for making the illegal drug in the Sta. Cruz apartment.
During the proceedings, Villanueva told Marcelino that he could be readily released if he could show an order authorizing his presence at the drug laboratory. Such an order would prove that he was there on an official mission.
It took hours for Marcelino to obtain a certification from the Philippine Army’s Intelligence Security Group that he was indeed working as an intelligence agent for the military.
The certification, signed by Col. Marlo Guloy, the group commander, and sent to the inquest prosecutor just before 5 p.m., said Marcelino “has shared intelligence information to this unit from November to December 2015 with regard to suspected Philippine Army personnel engaged in the use of drugs and other illegal drug activities.”
Marcelino was given the task as part of the military’s efforts to stamp out drug use among soldiers through mandatory random drug testing.
But Chief Insp. Roque Merdegia, spokesperson for the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (PNP-AIDG), said the Army certification was “immaterial.”
“It did not categorically [say] that he was authorized to operate [in Manila],” Merdegia said.
Villanueva said the document was too broad, and he wanted a more explicit certification. Marcelino agreed to remain detained while undergoing preliminary investigation.
Villanueva set the first hearing for Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.
Later, in an interview, Marcelino expressed confidence that he could obtain a certification from the military.
“It’s not that it (the certification filed) was not honored. The [prosecutor] just requested [a more detailed one] until Wednesday. But that’s OK,” he said.
Pressed if an order indeed exists, Marcelino said: “I have nothing to hide. Although there are some confidential papers, you know how it is.”
Earlier in the day, Marcelino’s lawyer, Dennis Manalo, said the document would “come from the military officer who will be authorized for this purpose.”
“Right now he’s in the process of providing documentation as to his status as a military intelligence [agent],” Manalo told reporters.
“This is clearly a misencounter on the part of the agents of the PDEA and on the part of his efforts to help in curbing illegal drugs in the country,” he said.
Reached by phone, Marcelino’s former PDEA boss, retired Gen. Dionisio Santiago, vouched for his former top agent’s honesty.
“I can vouch for him. [On] my watch, I knew that he was upright. There were situations when he [needed] money to help his family, but he never asked help from us,” said Santiago, recalling family emergencies when Marcelino refused to seek financial aid from the PDEA.
“I remember him once saying “I am handling a lot of funds (for PDEA operations) but that’s not my money. That’s [public] money,” Santiago said.
He said he did not believe Marcelino could be corrupted. “If during the time he needed money he did not do anything illegal, how much more now that he is in no condition to require so much money,” he said.
No mission for the Army
Senior Supt. Antonio Gardiola Jr., PNP-AIDG head, said Marcelino cited a “statement of support” from Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of the Philippine Army, during the inquest.
Gardiola said the statement did not amount to a mission order.
Sent to reporters by text message, the statement said Año “vouched for [Marcelino’s] integrity.”
Año said, however, that his “official relationship” with Marcelino ended when he left the military intelligence service in 2013.
He said the Army would cooperate in the investigation of Marcelino.
He’s with the Navy
Col. Benjamin Hao, spokesperson for the Army, said it was unlikely Año signed a mission order for Marcelino, as Marcelino was now assigned to the Philippine Navy, not the Army.
Marcelino is superintendent at the Navy Officer Candidate School. He took the job only on Monday.
The Philippine Navy said on Thursday that Marcelino’s job did not involve drug operations.
Marcelino cannot turn to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) for a mission order. The PAOCC said yesterday that Marcelino had never been one of its agents.
“Our records likewise show that no ongoing PAOCC operations involve Lieutenant Colonel Marcelino,” Gen. Reginald Villasanta, PAOCC executive director, said in a statement released by Malacañang. With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil and Nikko Dizon
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