Party’s over for ‘drug supplier’ in Pasay concert deaths | Inquirer News

Party’s over for ‘drug supplier’ in Pasay concert deaths

Suspect nabbed but not charged in 2014; NBI looking for 9 more
By: - Reporter / @neltayao
/ 12:21 AM May 29, 2016
SUSPECTED drug supplier Joshua Habalo (in white shirt) in a selfie with the NBI undercover agents (faces blurred) who would later arrest him in a buy-bust operation at a Pasay City club early Saturday morning. NBI PHOTO (For Annelle Tayao's story titled "Party's over for drug dealer")

SUSPECTED drug supplier Joshua Habalo (in white shirt) in a selfie taken at a Pasay City club before he was arrested by undercover NBI agents in a buy-bust operation early Saturday morning. NBI PHOTO

His cell phone’s video recordings placed Joshua Hizola Habalo at the “scene of the crime”—the open-air concert in Pasay City where five people collapsed and later died of heart attack and multi-organ damage allegedly due to party drug overdose.

The phone also had photos of small labeled brown envelopes which, authorities said, Habalo used to pack illegal drugs apparently “preordered” by clients.


When arrested, the 35-year-old Habalo denied being the source of the drugs at the concert, but later said he knew how some partygoers managed to sneak pills into the venue by hiding them “inside bras.”

The National Bureau of Investigation on Saturday presented a handcuffed and hooded Habalo as one of the drug peddlers who mingled with the crowd at the May 21 CloseUp Forever Summer concert.


Habalo had given the names of other suspected drug dealers who were at the concert, bureau officials said in a briefing.

The suspect was arrested by agents from the NBI’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Division (AIDD) in a buy-bust operation at House Manila, a club inside Remington Hotel at the Resorts World Manila complex in Pasay City.

READ: 5 dead at Pasay City concert

‘Amore,’ cocaine, etc.

AIDD chief Joel Tovera said agents, who found Habalo at the club around 2 a.m. Saturday, caught him bringing several small brown envelopes containing packets of cocaine, ecstasy pills and the so-called “green amore” capsules, which were widely rumored on social media to be the cause of the concertgoers’ deaths.

Tovera said the agents acted on a tip that Habalo was at the May 21 concert selling drugs.

An informant identified him as one of up to 10 people who sold illegal drugs at the event, he added.


The police are continuing the search for the nine other suspects, he said.

READ: 100 cops, 235 bouncers, 10 intel men watched over Pasay concert

Earlier arrest, release

Based on NBI records, Tovera said, Habalo was arrested by AIDD in 2014 also for selling illegal substances, including green amore tablets.

But no formal charges were filed against Habalo that year because the drugs found in his possession contained only synthetic cathinone, which is not listed as an illegal substance under Rebublic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, Tovera said.

When Habalo’s name cropped up in the NBI probe on the Pasay concert, Tovera said agents followed his movements and found out on Thursday that he was an organizer of a party at House Manila that began Friday night.

To entrap Habalo, Tovera said his team reserved a table at the party, where they met with the suspect for the transaction. Habalo apparently didn’t trust the buyers right away and produced the items he was selling only after two hours of chitchat and dancing, the NBI official added.

Initial questioning

Habalo was arrested after taking the marked money and was first brought to the Villamor Barangay Hall in Pasay for questioning, where he repeatedly denied selling drugs at the May 21 concert.

In a TV interview, however, Habalo answered questions on how concertgoers were able to smuggle illegal drugs into the venue, saying they were placed “inside bras, because [security personnel doing a body search] do not inspect that part.”

“They pass [the drugs] around, as long as no one sees them,” Habalo added.

The NBI said the suspect’s phone contained video clips of the concert, confirming Habalo’s presence at the event.

It also had photos of small brown envelopes allegedly containing illegal drugs. Tovera said the drugs sold by Habalo to the undercover agents were packed in the same manner. “The packages were labeled, as if they were pre-ordered.”

Charges are set to be filed against Habalo in the Pasay City prosecutor’s office for violating RA 9165.

Autopsies of three of the May 21 victims confirmed they died from heart attacks, but toxicologists have begun testing the corpses for a cocktail of illegal substances, including MDMA.

READ: NBI: Whatever killed partygoers blew up their heart, organs

“Taking these pills together with alcohol… may lead to a heart attack,” Tovera told the press conference.

The five victims collapsed and died as some 14,000 people attended the the open-air concert headlined by Belgian DJ duo Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike. The fatalities included a 33-year-old American male.

The concert deaths come as President-elect Rodrigo Duterte pledges to target drug-related crimes by any means necessary when he takes office on June 30. On Thursday Duterte described the concert deaths as “unacceptable,” blaming them on drugs. With a report from AFP

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