By Wilnard Bacelonia
MANILA – Former and present officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) refuted in a Senate hearing on Wednesday the alleged practice of paying 30 percent of confiscated illegal drugs as a reward to assets and informants.
The allegation was made by an asset of the PDEA and PNP during an executive session of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs chaired by Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers and a previous statement of current PDEA Director General (DG) Virgilio Lazo.
In the Senate hearing presided by Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, Lazo clarified that he acted in good faith and was only relaying his personal experience in an encounter with some of PDEA informants.
“I want to make it clear that their proposals were rejected outright. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency wants to correct the erroneous impression that there is a PDEA policy involving the handing out of non-monetary incentives like recycled illicit drugs. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been a prevailing practice in the PDEA reward system,” Lazo told the committee.
According to the PDEA chief, the informants told him that the reward system has been done in previous administrations both in the agency and the PNP.
“So, outright sinabi ko sa kanila na (I told them) no, I will not allow that. You will only be entitled to the monetary reward which is corresponding to your accomplishment. Ako, humarap ako sa inyo, sabi ko sa kanila (I am talking to you face-to-face, I told them) to give you assurance na ibibigay namin sa inyo yung (that we will give you the) monetary reward,” Lazo said.
When asked if the reward system existed during their time, both former PDEA director generals Wilkins Villanueva and Aaron Aquino said they were hurt and saddened by the revelation made by Lazo and denied the allegation.
“I’m sorry Sir, yung lumapit sa ‘yo (those who talked to you) I assure you Sir, basurero ng droga yun. Kasi kung mag-aano ka ng 30 percent, basurero ka ng droga (Those are drug recyclers. Because if you offer 30 percent, you are a drug recycler),” Villanueva said.
“Definitely, hindi mangyayari yun eh (That will not happen). That’s the reason na nagpapaalam yung tao (why he asked your permission),” Aquino added.
Former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Secretary Isidro Lapeña, who is also a former PDEA director general, said the agency has never tolerated that kind of reward system under his leadership.
“Not under my watch. In fact, yung mga binanggit ni former DG Wilkins kapag may mga raid, sumasama ako diyan eh (what DG Wilkins said during raids, I go with them). And it was during my time also that I saw kung ano pa ang kailangang gawin (what needs to be done). I can say with certainty na we did our best — a very vigorous campaign against drugs and I think we have delivered,” Lapeña said.
PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Chief Police Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat also denied the practice but admitted that he experienced being offered the same reward system.
“Malaki ang possibillity na nangyayari yung mga ganong offer Sir at yung mga nakakalusot sa operation (There is a big possibility that those kind of offer happened and those which slipped the operations),” Caramat said.
From hero to zero
Dela Rosa said Lazo, the three former PDEA director generals, and the PNP officers all gave good explanations to the committee but the lawmaker agreed to Caramat citing previous incidents like the allegations made against Police Senior M/ Sgt. Jerwin Rebosora and Police M/Sgt. Lorenzo Catarata.
“Part sila ng (They were part of the) raiding team. They are heroes. Dahil lang nasilaw sa pera galing sa shabu, yun naging (Because they were blinded by the money from shabu, it became) from hero to zero,” the lawmaker told Senate reporters after the hearing.
Catarata and Rebosora, both operatives of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group, were seen in a CCTV footage slipping through 42 kilos worth PHP285.6 million of illegal drugs in a white sedan during an operation against Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo who was caught with 990 kilos of illegal drugs last year.
Dela Rosa ruled to cite them in contempt during the hearing in response to the motion filed by Senator Raffy Tulfo for not being contented on the answers given by the two police officers.
The top cop-turned senator said his committee will still have to determine when Rebosora and Catarata will be freed from the Senate premises but advised that they will probably be turned over to PNP.
Barbers reiterated his call to amend Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 to prevent law enforcers from carrying out drug recycling schemes.
He said House Committee on Dangerous Drugs intends to correct loopholes and flaws of the 20-year-old law. (with Zaldy De Layola/PNA)