By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

‘BIG PLAYER’. Canadian Thomas Gordon O’ Quinn (standing, center) is presented to the media during a press briefing at the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame, Quezon City on Monday (May 20, 2024). O’Quinn is linked to the PHP9.6 billion shabu shipment intercepted at a checkpoint in Alitagtag, Batangas on April 15. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald Alfiler)

MANILA – The government is getting closer to unmasking those behind the PHP9.6 billion shabu shipment intercepted in Alitagtag, Batangas last month following the arrest of Canadian Thomas Gordon O’ Quinn, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said Monday.

“He is one of the major characters. Yun lang masasabi ko (That’s all I can say). I am sorry but I would have to make it as general as that. He is not a minor player but he is a major player. I am sorry I cannot divulge it until we file the proper cases. (But) this team I want to commend this team. It’s a united effort of everyone from the (PNP) chief down the line to everyone, yung mga kapulisyahan (the police force),” Abalos said in a press briefing at Camp Crame, Quezon City.

O’Quinn, who was presented to the media by Abalos and PNP chief Gen. Rommel Francisco Marbil, was arrested on the night of May 16 in Tagaytay City, for being the subject of a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) for conspiracy to possess, export, and distribute illegal substances into the United States with a penalty of life imprisonment.

Abalos said the suspect will be charged with violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and Article 178 of the Revised Penal Code (use of fictitious names).

He said they have pieces of evidence linking the foreigner to the case but they would “defer its release” for now.

“Definitely, he is not the only foreigner, the way I see things. Meron pang iba (There are others). That’s the only thing I can tell right now,” he said.

Marbil, meanwhile, said they have established the links of O’Quinn and Alajon Michael Zarate, the driver of the van carrying the intercepted contraband who was earlier arrested.

Investigators are not discounting the possibility that they are part of a larger drug syndicate.

Meanwhile, Abalos said illegal drugs, estimated at PHP12.93 billion, were seized during 18,491 anti-illegal drugs operations from Jan. 1 to May 19 this year.

A total of 22,540 persons were arrested in these operations, he added. (PNA)