Reelected village chief nabbed in drug raid in North Cotabato
MAKILALA, North Cotabato — Agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) arrested a village chief in this town for drug possession on Wednesday, two days after he was reelected in the barangay elections.
Armed with a warrant, PDEA agents in Central Mindanao region barged into the house of the Malasila village chief, Melvin Fortajada, at 3:30 a.m. and recovered at least five sachets of suspected “shabu” (crystal meth) and three bullets for .45-caliber pistol. No gun was found.
Fortajada, however, denied the items were his.
“All the evidence had been planted. This raid is politically motivated,” he told reporters.
Fortajada was not on the PDEA list of suspected narcopoliticians in the village but he had been placed under surveillance before the raid, according to a PDEA agent.
Fortajada’s wife, Helen, told reporters that the P20,000 the family was keeping in the house was missing after the raid.
But the PDEA agent said all recovered items had been inventoried in the presence of witnesses, including reporters.
“No money was found during the raid,” the agent said.
Director General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine National Police chief, had warned suspected narcopoliticians who won during Monday’s elections that they would not be spared from the government’s antidrug campaign.
“Victory is not an excuse,” Albayalde said in a press briefing in Camp Crame. “If they are really involved [in illegal drugs], then, they will be subjected to operations,” he said.
In Zamboanga del Sur province, reelected village chief Mohibat Pagayao of Barangay Old Labangan in Labangan town raised concern over the planting of evidence.
“I fear that in such other incidents, there will be a ‘shootout’ and they will plant evidence in my area,” said Pagayao, who was on the PDEA list of village narcopoliticians made public a week before the elections.
In Pampanga province, a reelected village chief in Angeles City said the PDEA’s ‘narcolist’ was used by a rival to smear his and other candidates’ names.
Bernardo “Bonnet” Santos said he won a third and last term as chair of Barangay Pulong Bulo here, although his opponent reproduced and distributed copies of the list linking him and other candidates to illegal drug activities.
“It did not work. It’s a smear campaign,” said Santos, who garnered 3,036 votes against his rival’s 1,604 votes. —Williamor Magbanua, Leah Agonoy, Divina Suson and Tonette Orejas
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