5 cops in Duterte drug matrix now in PNP custody

WILLING TO FACE PROBE. Senior Supt. Leonardo Suan says he is willing to face probe on his alleged involvement in illegal drug activities in an interview with reporters in Camp Crame on Monday (Oct. 29, 2018). (Screenshot from PTV)

MANILA — The five active police officials tagged as involved in illegal drug activities are now under the custody of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

In a press briefing on Monday, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said Senior Supt. Leonardo Suan, Supt. Lorenzo Bacia, Insp. LitoPirote, Insp. ConradoCaragdag and SPO4 Alejandro Gerardo Liwanag were summoned to Camp Crame to face probe on the allegations against them.

“In compliance with the orders of President Rodrigo RoaDuterte, I have directed the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) and the DPRM (Directorate for Personnel and Records Management) to ensure the availability of six dismissed and active PNP personnel to face investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation in connection with ongoing probe into the reported drug smuggling at the Bureau of Customs,” Albayalde said in a press briefing after Monday’s flag ceremony.

The names of the five police officials, along with dismissed Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, appeared in a drug matrix made public by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“I have directed the PNP Internal Affairs Service to immediately conduct an investigation to determine whether there is probable cause to file administrative cases against these active PNP personnel,” Albayalde said.

The administrative cases that may be slapped against the five active policemen have a maximum penalty of dismissal from the service and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

“(The instruction to us) is we let the NBI do the investigation so we will cooperate with the NBI. We cannot confirm kung (if they are really involved), let the court decide on that. They will be given due process. As we said, we cannot assume that they are guilty unless proven. They will be given due process,” the PNP chief explained.

Albayalde admitted that they have not received any report about the six policemen in the drug matrix when they were still in the anti-illegal drugs unit of the PNP.

He said they only learned of their alleged involvement when the congressional investigation on the smuggling of shabu started, wherein one of the witnesses named Acierto and former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Deputy Director General for Administration Ismael Fajardo.

“We have no information on them before. But the President has his sources,” said Albayalde.

The country’s top cop said they are not discounting the possibility that more names would appear during the course of the investigation.

“This problem has been neglected. In some areas even outside of Metro Manila or regions, it even became a culture. This is why our operations are continuous and we are slowly uncovering the truth,” Albayalde noted.

Albayalde said the common link of the six policemen is their assignment to the special unit of the PNP on illegal drugs, which is under the Office of the Chief PNP.

It was earlier called Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF), which was later named Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG). The AIDG was dismantled due to the involvement of its men in the controversial kidnap-slay of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo.

It was when the PNP Drug Enforcement Group (PDEG) was renamed and reorganized that the six cops parted ways, according to Albayalde.

Suan was assigned to Eastern Visayas, Acierto was dismissed from the service while the four other cops were reassigned to various posts.

Acierto and Fajardo were implicated in the smuggling of PHP11 billion worth of shabu through the Bureau of Customs in August this year. This resulted in Fajardo’s sacking from his post as PDEA’s number two man.

Suan willing to face probe

Suan, meanwhile, said he was surprised over the allegation.

“If you will read the matrix and the report to the President, there is no allegation of any illegal activity against me. My picture was just put in there. I haven’t joined Acierto and Fajardo in any single operation. My colleagues can attest to that. We know each other because of AIDSOTF but we were not in the same group. I am in one unit, they are in another),” Suan told reporters.

The police official also said he is ready to face probe and clear his name.

“The President ordered an investigation. This will give us the chance to prove our innocence because it is our families who will suffer because of this. I feel bad for my family. I am not bragging but I have landed in the PNP’s hall of fame because I am a four-time alumni of the year. I was assigned twice as a junior field officer for Metro Manila and also a junior field officer of anti-narcotics twice. It’s unfair for me, who is taking good care of my reputation, to be involved in this controversy. This is why there should be a fair investigation on this,” Suan said in Filipino.

Albayalde earlier said these officers have already been relieved from their positions to give way to a fair investigation.

Acierto, who was on top of the matrix, was one of the seven cops ordered dismissed in August over their alleged involvement in the anomalous issuance of AK-47 rifle licenses from 2011 to 2013 that supposedly ended up in the hands of

New People’s Army rebels in Mindanao.

He was also alleged to be the mentor of Fajardo, who was also relieved as PDEA’s second highest official in September.

This is due to his alleged involvement in the PHP6.8-billion ‘shabu’ smuggling case in Cavite in August. (PNA)

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