DOJ orders probe of gov’s drug link
The Department of Justice is looking into allegations that local government officials in Catanduanes province and an official of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) were behind the operation of a “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) laboratory busted by a team of policemen and soldiers in Virac town on Saturday.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, on Monday, ordered the NBI to look deeper into claims by some concerned residents in Catanduanes that Gov. Joseph Cua, Mayor Samuel Laynes of the capital town Virac, and former NBI director Eric Isidoro, who reportedly owns the property where the shabu lab was discovered, were involved in the drug trade.
“These are serious allegations that need immediate follow-up,” said Aguirre in a telephone interview on Monday.
Cua, however, denied he was involved in the illegal drug trade, saying this was an election campaign issue raised by his political detractors.
The Inquirer tried but failed to reach Isidoro and Laynes for comments at press time.
Among the leads that the NBI was checking was Cua’s alleged ties to illegal drugs because some of his relatives had either been jailed or charged for drug-related cases in the past few years. An Inquirer source said one of Cua’s nephews was serving time at the New Bilibid Prison for illegal drugs and was reported to be part of the network of convicted drug lord Peter Co.
The government source said Laynes was a protege of Cua, who backed his campaign for mayor in the last election. Laynes, the source added, is a former general manager of the local electric cooperative which installed the power transformer that run the shabu laboratory.
An increase in electricity bills, ranging from P1,000 to P50,000 monthly and which indicated unusual power consumption, led policemen to the warehouse that served as a drug laboratory in the village of Palta Small.
The source said Isidoro used to head the NBI’s antidrug unit when Sen. Leila de Lima served as justice secretary. Isidoro, the source said, was frequently seen in Catanduanes campaigning for De Lima in this year’s elections. Isidoro has since been reassigned to General Santos City.
Cua believed the discovery of the shabu laboratory would send a strong message that the government is serious in its campaign against illegal drugs.
“It will also identify who really is involved in the illegal drug trade here. Hopefully, [this would] clear my name of the long-time election issue raised against me, regarding my supposed involvement in this [illicit] trade,” he said.
Cua urged local officials and residents to cooperate and help the government in its campaign to rid communities of the drug problem.
Angelica Balmadrid, Isidoro’s wife, has denied knowledge of the illegal activities at the warehouse, built on a 1,000-square meter lot, that she subleased to Jayson Gonzales Uy.
Balmadrid said she had not been to the area since she signed the lease contract and returned there only on Saturday.