House probes shabu laboratory in Catanduanes

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CITY, Albay: The House Committee on Dangerous Drugs headed by Rep. Ace Barbers will conduct a legislative inquiry today to look into the involvement of local officials in the drug trade four months after the discovery of a huge shabu laboratory on the island province of Catanduanes.

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The House probe will be conducted at the Catanduanes State University auditorium

In wake of a bill filed by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, chairman of the committee on transportation and telecommunication.

The Philippine National Police (PNP)-Bicol uncovered on November 26, 2016 the existence of the shabu laboratory in Parangay Palta Small at the property of Angelica Balmadrid, common-law wife of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Eric Isidoro.

Isidoro was head of the NBI’s anti-drug unit during the time of Justice secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima.

The warehouse is leased to a certain Jason Uy, alias “Paulo Uy,” reportedly a Chinese.

The shabu laboratory was found with six hydrogenators, 329 kilos of ephedrine hydrochloride and other materials for making shabu.

It was said to be the biggest shabu factory in the region.

Chief Supt. Melvin Buenafe, PNP-Bicol regional director, said they have filed charges against Lawrence Flores Pinera, caretaker of the shabu facility in Virac, Catanduanes for violation of Republic Act 9165.

Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua, who was implicated in the drug trade by his political opponents in 2004, said he was not invited by the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs to the inquiry.

Cua added that Sarmiento was his former campaign manager in 2004 when he ran for public office but lost to former Gov. Leandro Verceles.

“It was Gov. Verceles who implicated me in the drug trade to ruin my name and political career but it was not proven as it was all hullaballoo. I’ve been a businessman here for a long time,” he said.

Cua added that he also asked the NBI to conduct an independent probe of the presence of a shabu laboratory on the island to ferret out the truth.

He said his political rivals even claimed that his ferryboat navigating the Catanduanes-Tabaco-Catanduanes route was being used in the drug trade.

“I am the owner of the ferry but I have no right to inspect the trucking as this is the responsibility of the Coast Guard and maritime police,” Cua told The Manila Times.

Sarmiento has said the scheduled congressional inquiry into the mega shabu lab was in aid of legislation, not a move to malign politicians.

Representatives from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, PNP, NBI, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Coast Guard , Office of Transport Security of the Philippines, Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Coast Guard-Bicol Region, Land Transportation Authority and the Maritime Industry Authority in Bicol were asked to appear before the House inquiry.

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