By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. (center) (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Wednesday assured that those responsible for sneaking into the country the PHP6.7 billion suspected shabu that was seized in Manila last year would be identified and punished.

In a press briefing at the Pasay City Hall, Abalos said he believes many ranking police officials were involved in the case.

“This is considered one of the biggest drug hauls. What is important is we pinpoint the mastermind but I am very disappointed. There are many police officers involved here and some are in high positions. I cannot just let this pass. I want them removed,” Abalos said.

He said he was also not happy with the handling of the case as only the suspect, Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo Jr., was dismissed from the service.

“In the next days, I would make an announcement and heads will roll. I expect that they (the police) take a leave pending investigation. If not, they would be suspended. We guarantee that we have an unbiased and sound piece of evidence. I assure you that the National Police Commission will do things right to find justice,” he added.

Abalos said he wrote a letter to PNP chief, Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, dated Feb. 20, 2023, asking him for updates on the case, such as the result of the fact-finding investigation, proceedings being initiated on the two police officers who allegedly attempted to withhold 42 kg. from the yielded 990 kg. of shabu, and the disposition of the confiscated illegal drugs.

A month after, Abalos sent another letter to Napolcom vice chairperson Alberto Bernardo after learning that three meetings held with the PNP regarding updates on the case were all inconclusive.

He then ordered Napolcom to conduct a fact-finding inquiry on the actions undertaken by the Special Task Force as part of its mandate to investigate police anomalies and irregularities.

Abalos, meanwhile, assured that the Napolcom fact-finding probe would be orderly and unbiased.

Hindi na pupuwede ito. Dapat kalusin ang dapat kalusin dito. Dapat tanggalin na ang dapat tanggalin. Sasagasaan natin ito, huwag kayo mag-alala. This is drugs, hindi biro ito, this war on drugs, buhay itong sinasakripisyo ng mga tao dito (I cannot let this pass. Let’s deal with this once and for all. Remove who needs to be removed. We will strike them, don’t worry. This is drugs, this is no joke. We are putting the lives of people at stake here),” he noted.

On March 26, the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) destroyed 990 kg. of shabu with an estimated street value of PHP6.7 billion in Trece Martires City, Cavite.

The contraband was seized from Mayo and another suspect, Ney Atadero, in an operation in Manila in October last year.

Mayo was dismissed from the service effective March 21 for three counts of grave misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a police officer while Atadero was charged with violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. (PNA)