La Trinidad, Benguet: Fifteen students, including four minors, a Nigerian and a Filipino-American student and their driver were intercepted at a checkpoint in Sabangan, Mountain Province, for keeping marijuana bricks, stalks and pulverized marijuana. Policemen were tipped off that a marijuana-loaded white Hi Ace Grandia van with conduction sticker (A2 N747) will proceed to Baguio City via Sabangan town. A checkpoint was immediately installed along the national road in Sitio Todey in Poblacion where the van, driven by Bayani Malang, 54, of Tondo, Manila, was flagged down. Found inside the van were four minors, including Ricky Pinlac Perez, Marvin Canlas Garza, Miko Flores Miranda and Jaymar Cruz de la Cruz, all 18 years old and all from Tondo. Also found in the vehicle were Ezekiel Radin Tiu, 20, Mark Santiago Sarmiento, 21, and Niko CwalingYumol, 21, also all from Tondo; Jireh Rose Daniaguel de la Cruz, 19, of Montalban, Rizal; Abigail Baldric del Fierro, 23, college graduate, from New Jersey, and residing in Quezon City; Nneka Anastasia Okonkwo, 23, native of Nigeria; and Stephanie Mangaoang Gapuz, 27, from Carpenter Avenue, Plainfield, Illinois, both residing in San Fernando, La Union. Policemen smelled marijuana from the van, prompting them to inspect the vehicle and found plastic bags containing marijuana leaves weighing 50 grams inside the bag of one of the passengers. They reportedly refused to open the bags at the back compartment of the van, also prompting the policemen to secure a search warrant from the local court. During the search, police found 56 marijuana bricks, four bundles of stalks and a plastic bag containing pulverized marijuana from the suspects’ luggage. The students and Malang face charges while the minors were turned over to the Sabangan Social Welfare office.
THOM F. PICAÑA