THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is again rocked by yet another damning scandal, this time involving the arrest of a close relative of the agency chief and a high-profile drug inmate who were both arrested in a drug bust in Cabanatuan City last week.
It almost came to pass as another ordinary drug bust but The Manila Times’ sources at the PDEA claimed that the arrested drug suspects— PO2Fraklin Ariap and “agent” Jean Granada—are, respectively, a relative of PDEA Director General Arturo Cacdac and an inmate who was involved in the theft of some 7 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu inside the PDEA premises in 2006.
Granada, who was supposed to be in jail, is one of the two security guards previously assigned at PDEA who were charged for the drug theft along with Supts. Jerome Mutia, former chief of the Special Enforcement Services, and Gustavo Torres, chief of the Administration and Human Resource Department; Chief Insp. Arsenio Tancinco; Insp. Joferdy Padillo, formerly detailed with the PDEA laboratory services.
The other security guard charged with the same offense is Oliver Fernandez. Mutia and the other accused are detained at the Quezon City jail. Granada, on the other hand, was supposedly an inmate at the PDEA for fear that he might be killed if jailed along the other respondents in the drug case.
“There are several questions which PDEA should answer squarely. First, how come the detainee who is under the custody of PDEA-IIS [Intelligence and Investigation Service] under the supervision of a Magdalo officer Randy Pedroso tolerated and allowed the detainee to leave the premises of the PDEA?” the Times’ source asked.
It was said that Police Officer 2 Ariap’s detail at the drug agency was recently extended by Cacdac after its six-month expiration.
On December 3, Ariap and Granada were nabbed by anti-narcotics operatives of the Nueva Ecija Provincial Police Office during a buy-bust operation.
Nueva Ecija police director Sr. Supt. Crizaldo Nieves said both suspects identified themselves as PDEA personnel but Cabanatuan City police chief Supt. Pedro Soliba reported that Cacdac’s office had denied Granada was an operative.
The two were arrested by members of the Intelligence/Drug Enforcement Unit led by Senior Insp. Joel de la Cruz in Barangay Sangitan West at around 4:10 a.m. on the said date.
Seized from them was a plastic pack containing shabu worth P125,000, three plastic sachets containing shabu with a street value of P10,000. The two also bore two PDEA identification cards.
Ariap also yielded a 9mm pistol and a cal. .45, purportedly issued by the police and the PDEA.
Unknown to the two, they have been subjected to a two-week surveillance operation by local police following reports about their illicit trade.
Nueva Ecija police officials said charges of violation of Section 5 and 11 of Article II of RA 9165 will be filed against the suspects before the City Prosecutor’s Office in Cabanatuan.
Another source at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court where the case against Granada, Mutia and other 2006 heist suspects said Granada should have been in jail and not “peddling drugs.”
“Magagalit si Judge dito kapag nalaman. May request sa korte si Granada na ilipat sa ibang detention facility at mukha nganga ginagamit siya doon [The judge will be mad when he learns about this. Granada had requested to be transferred to another facility maybe because he is being used there at PDEA],” a court source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Times.
Both PDEA and court sources agreed that under the Revised Penal Code, specifically Article 224, Pedroso and other PDEA officials concerned should be held liable for “infidelity in the custody of prisoners,” a crime punishable with imprisonment.
The Article provides that “if the evasion of the prisoner shall have taken place through the negligence of the officer charged with the conveyance or custody of the escaping prisoner, said officer shall suffer the penalties of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period and temporary special disqualification.”
Granada applied to be put under the Witness Protection Program and filed a motion for discharge as an accused in the shabu theft case. The QC Regional Trial Court Branch 76 under Judge Alexander Balut, according to the Times source, however, denied the motion several months ago.
“In effect, PDEA should have turned over Jean Granada immediately to the Quezon City jail but PDEA deaf to the dictate of the law and kept Granada for unknown reasons or for reasons that we now very well know following his arrest for drug pushing in Nueva Ecija,” the source pointed out.
According to him, the shabu seized form Ariap and Granada came from accumulated drugs seized from previous apprehensions, which are more commonly known as “savings.” These “savings” are used in future operations but some erring agents sell these for personal gain.
“These savings are stored in a steel cabinet where they have gained access to after the other PDEA agents who were involved in the Mark Sy Tan case were relieved from the IIS,” the PDEA source said.
Previously, the agency was rocked by similar controversies that include extortion and charges that money changed hands in the Tan case. The former head of the PDEA and his deputy even locked horns over a similar issue and caused the former to bow out of service.
On August 21, 2006, seven kilos of shabu were stolen from the PDEA evidence room in what many said was a move to humiliate then PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago who wanted the policemen detailed to PDEA to be recalled back to their mother units.
Santiago then ordered a thorough investigation and even sought the help of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to uncover the truth behind the theft. Santiago was a former chief of the Armed Forces.
The breakthrough came when Santiago’s men discovered that Granada and the other security guard were acting strangely. Later, they found out cash stashed inside a speaker system owned by one of the guards who eventually confessed to the crime.
On Sept. 18, 2006, Santiago personally led PDEA operatives in arresting Mutia and his wife Gina for delivering 122.66 grams of shabu to Padillo at SM Fairview, QC after the latter cooperated with PDEA. That time, Mutia was planning to leave for abroad. During interrogation, Santiago almost came to hitting Mutia with a metal chair.
They were charged with violation of Article 299 of the Revised Penal Code (Robbery in a Public Building); Section 5 (Transportation of Dangerous Drugs) in relation to Section 26 (attempt or conspiracy) Article 11 of Republic Act 9165 and violation of Article 217 of RPC (malversation of public funds or property).
Based on the investigation conducted by the PDEA, the respondents plotted the robbery during a meeting which was presided by Mutia and Torres. The group agreed to rob the PDEA and promised the others that each would get at least a million pesos each.
The robbery was carried out in the early of morning of August 21, 2006 with Mutia driving a white Isuzu Crosswind (XGV-107) with Torres, Padillo, Fernandez and Avelino on board.
Padillo, Fernandez and Avelino alighted and entered the exit gate, which was earlier opened by Granada for them to easily enter the PDEA compound without being detected. Fernandez and Avelino then proceeded to the evidence room while Padillo and Granada acted as look-outs.