Drug supply in Panay provinces drops after Odictas’ deaths–PDEA
ILOILO CITY—The supply of illegal drugs in Iloilo and other provinces on Panay Island has dropped by at least 20 percent following the death of suspected drug lord Melvin Odicta and his wife, Meriam, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
David Garcia, PDEA Western Visayas regional public information officer, said the supply drop could reach up to 30 percent, based on a “very rough estimate.”
He said this was based on estimates that the groups of Odicta and Richard Prevendido supply 50 to 60 percent of illegal drugs in Iloilo and other Panay provinces.
The other 40 percent is supplied by “freelancers” or those who do not belong to either of the two groups, he said.
“The operation of the Odicta group has been disrupted by their deaths. [The group members] could be lying low or in hiding,” Garcia told the Inquirer.
“We are monitoring if this will continue and what will happen next after their burial,” he said.
A lone gunman shot and killed the couple minutes after they disembarked from a passenger vessel at the Caticlan port in Malay town in Aklan province on Aug. 29.
Law enforcement agencies had tagged Melvin as the leader of one of the two main illegal drug groups in Western Visayas. They believed his wife was also involved in the illegal drug trade.
The couple denied the allegations and insisted they were operators of legitimate businesses that include a taxi fleet, van transport service and a restaurant.
On Sunday, Melvin and Meriam were laid to rest even as investigators remained clueless on the identity of the gunman.
More than 2,500 family members, employees and other supporters mostly wearing black packed the Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Tanza, Iloilo City, where the funeral Mass was held.
“I came here to see them for the last time. They treated my brother and his family very well,” said a 46-year-old woman from Barangay Rizal Estanzuela who came with her niece. Her brother is one of the drivers of the Melvin taxi fleet operated by the couple.
In his homily, Fr. Renato Cuadras quoted the statement of the Couples for Christ lay organization against extrajudicial killings.
“Everybody agrees that the illegal drug problem must be eradicated. But must it be done this way?” he said in the Mass that was co-celebrated by Fathers Norberto Tacadao, parish priest, and Lorenzo Camacho.
“Are we better off than the addicts or their pushers who cause rapes and other heinous crimes, when we kill with impunity, when we spill innocent blood? Does the end justify the means? When we don’t even know whether the ends will really be achieved?” Cuadras said, quoting the statement.
More than 150 vehicles carrying family members, employees, neighbors and supporters joined the funeral convoy from the church to the Forest Lake Memorial Garden in Mandurriao District about six kilometers away.
Drivers of the couple’s taxi cabs and passenger vans displayed handwritten posters expressing gratitude to the couple.
On Friday, the couple’s family submitted to the Western Visayas regional police office an affidavit expressing lack of interest to pursue the investigation and to file criminal complaints related to the couple’s killing.
SPO1 Nida Gregas, spokesperson of the Special Investigation Task Group Odicta, said the task group had not received a copy of the affidavit but confirmed it was filed in the regional police office.
She said the investigation being conducted by the task group will continue because the Odictas’ killing is a public crime.
The task group will be dissolved after six months if no suspect has been charged. The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group will take over the investigation, Gregas said.
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