Bato on trader’s denial of drug links: Tell it to Marines
ILOILO CITY—Tell it to the Marines.
Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Philippine National Police chief, used the expression, which meant he refuses to believe, in reaction to the denial by an Iloilo businessman of his involvement in the drug trade.
Dela Rosa made no mention of the businessman’s name, but the PNP chief was apparently referring to Melvin Odicta who, with his wife, presented themselves to Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno on Thursday after his name landed on the list of the Duterte administration’s top drug suspects in the country.
“Who are you fooling?” said Dela Rosa in a speech at the 115th PNP service anniversary ceremony at Camp Martin Delgado, the Western Visayas police regional headquarters. “Only yourselves,” he said.
Odicta and his wife, Merriam, went to the office of Sueno after the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency identified him as a top drug lord who goes by the name “Dragon” in the drug underworld.
Odicta had been identified as head of one of two main drug groups operating in Iloilo province. He repeatedly denied involvement in drug trafficking.
Odicta’s lawyers, who went with the couple in Camp Crame, said the Odictas did not surrender but just met with Sueno to clear their names and seek help against death threats.
“They do not need to surrender because there is no pending arrest warrant against them,” said lawyer Gualberto Cataluna, one of Odicta’s lawyers.
Odicta was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Iloilo Regional Trial Court in 1989 for selling marijuana. The sentence was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1991.
But Odicta was released in 1995 based on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Cataluna denied that his clients went to Sueno to reveal the names of drug protectors, including politicians and police officers.
Odicta is facing criminal charges for leading an attempt to forcibly enter radio station Aksyon Radyo Iloilo, which has been airing reports and commentaries about the drug trade.
Odicta owns several businesses in the city, including a taxi company called Melvin, several vans for hire and a restaurant.
In a press conference after his meeting with Odicta, Sueno said the businessman brought with him “confidential” documents. Sueno declined to give details.
Cataluna said his clients decided to seek an audience with Sueno after they were repeatedly told by police in Western Visayas to report to Dela Rosa.
“I personally know (Sueno) so we decided to meet with him,” said Cataluna.
Sueno said he advised the Odicta couple to submit themselves to investigation by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
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