By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

(File photo)

MANILA – Operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) seized PHP747 million worth of illegal drugs in the first 45 days of the year, the country’s top cop said Monday.

In a press briefing in Camp Crame, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said 892 big-time drug pushers and 5,588 street level drug personalities were arrested during the same period.

He added that 176 drug users also surrendered to police units.

Meanwhile, Azurin said the PNP is boosting its crackdown against online sabong (cockfighting) which remains suspended pursuant to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order (EO) 9.

He said through the initiatives of the Anti-Cybercrime Group, a total of 236 websites, Facebook pages, chat groups and accounts that host e-sabong activities had been taken down or rendered inactive.

“The ACG is closely monitoring other online platforms and mobile applications catering this e-sabong game,” said Azurin.

Last week, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) released the wanted poster of six suspects in the disappearance of six cockfighting enthusiasts at the Manila Arena in January 2022.

The suspects Julie A. Patidongan alias “Dondon,” 45; Mark Carlo Zabala, 29; Roberto G. Matillano Jr., 54; Johnry R. Consolacion, 33; Virgilio P. Bayog, 44; and Gleer Codilla alias Gler Cudilla, each carry a PHP1 million bounty.

The six accused, all security personnel of Manila Arena, are the subjects of a warrant of arrest issued by a Manila court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

“I would like to emphasize that the offer of reward aims to hasten the arrest of these wanted persons by encouraging the public to provide information that will lead to the arrest of these fugitives,” said Azurin.

For her part, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the PNP is looking at one group as responsible in all the cases involving the 34 missing cockfighting players in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Reports said the possible motive for the crime is a possible crackdown against those involved in alleged game-fixing, particularly at the height of the online sabong during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The CIDG is now completing the testimonies of some witnesses that could lead to the identification of the person/persons who ordered this,” she said.

Fajardo said Patidongan for instance was tagged in at least two cases of missing cockfighting players.

“So we are looking into the possibility that only one group was responsible for all the cases of 34 missing sabungeros,” Fajardo said.

The investigation into the 34 missing sabungeros was grouped into eight cases, all being handled by the CIDG.

“We are asking the public to provide us with the information they have that could lead to the arrest of these people,” said Fajardo.

She added that they are also talking with the families of the six Manila Arena personnel to convince them to surrender. (PNA)