Cockfighting and drugs brought together two key personalities in a narcotics network a Mexican cartel and a local syndicate are trying to set up in the Philippines.
Details about George Torres and Gary Tan are beginning to emerge following the discovery on Christmas Day of 84 kilos of shabu at a sprawling ranch in Lipa City, Batangas province where fighting cocks are bred.
Torres, a Filipino-American who is believed to be the point man for the Sinaloa cartel that is trying to gain a foothold in the Philippines, was not at the Lauro Panganiban Leviste (LPL) Ranch in Barangay Inosloban when police and anti-narcotics agents raided the place. But they arrested Tan, Argay Argenos and his wife, Rochelle.
C/Insp. Roque Merdeguia, spokesman for the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force, told The Manila Times Torres and Tan are cockfighting aficionados.
“Tan and Torres love cockfighting and both frequent derbies,” Merdeguia said.
Tan owns gamecocks and is well known in cockfighting circles, he said.
The entry of the Sinaloa cartel into the country is a disturbing development for drug enforcement officials.
“It is a good thing that we have discovered the emergence of the Mexican drug syndicate before they can harness and establish their illicit drug trade in the country. Besides the Chinese and African drug syndicates, we now have the (Mexican) drug cartel to contend with,” Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Dir. Gen. Arturo G. Cacdac Jr. said Friday.
If the three groups “coexist in the Philippines, then it is a cause for serious alarm,” Cacdac said.
Merdeguia said Torres and Tan could have been drawn together by their passion for cockfighting, and influenced their decision to stash P420 million worth of shabu in the gamefowl farm.
Tan, said to be a Filipino of Chinese descent, reportedly runs a drug ring in Metro Manila and nearby regions.
“Once we had determined who was Torres and his connection with Mexican-Sinaloa drug cartel, we immediately coordinated with US DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and they helped us in providing more information,” Merdeguia said.
The Sinaloa, regarded by the American authorities as the world’s most powerful drug cartel, traffics mainly in cocaine, with the United States as its major market.
It has turned to shabu because it is more popular in the Philippines, Merdequia said.
The shabu is shipped in from a foreign source, he said.
The discovery of the shabu stash in a ranch owned by the Levistes has put the spotlight on former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste, recently paroled after serving a prison term for killing his aide.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Saturday that Leviste’s parole could be revoked if it is established that he knew the ranch was being used to store shabu.
“The Secretary of Justice has already said that if the investigation shows that he is involved in the drug trade in his capacity as the owner of the ranch, it would certainly affect his parole and we stand by that,” Valte said.
Leviste’s parole is shrouded in controversy because it was granted even after the Department of Justice found him liable of evasion of sentence in May 2011.
The Bureau of Pardons and Parole gave Leviste temporary freedom after he was acquitted by a Makati City Regional Trial Court of evasion of sentence.
A television news report named Leviste’s twin brother Conrad as the owner of the LPL ranch.
Part of the ranch was reportedly leased to Torres.