BY Victor Reyes and Ashzel Hachero
PHILIPPINE Drug Enforcement Agency chief Wilkins Villanueva yesterday ordered a probe against five PDEA agents who allegedly faked a buy-bust operation against five alleged drug peddlers in Dumaguete City last June.
“PDEA will never condone any illegal acts of our personnel,” Villanueva said in ordering the probe against Nelson Muchuelas, May Ann Carmelo, Jose Anthony Juanites, Cheryl Mae Villaver and Realyn Pinpin.
“We will leave it to the court while our personnel will also have their rights to be heard,” Villanueva added.
PDEA spokesman Derrick Carreon said Villanueva directed the PDEA Intelligence and Investigation Service “to conduct parallel investigations against the concerned agents involved.”
Villanueva issued the order after Dumaguete Regional Trial Court Judge Amelia Lourdes Mendoza junked charges against the five suspects and initiated indirect contempt proceedings against them along with barangay official Shiela Mae Catada and media representative Juditho Fabillar. They were ordered to attend the proceedings for indirect contempt on November 13.
Mendoza said the seven face indirect contempt “for misleading the court, for making untruthful statements in their affidavits, and for directly impeding and degrading the administration of justice.”
Mendoza also ordered that copies of her order be sent to the Department of Justice and the City Prosecutors Office of Dumaguete for the “purpose of initiating an investigation into the criminal liabilities of the arresting officers and the team leader involved in the so-called buy bust operation in these cases” and to Villanueva.
The agents claimed they arrested the suspects in a buy-bust operation at the house of Torres last June 28. The agents said Aranas, Ozoa and Abao were holding a pot session inside Torres’ house while Torres and Sarabia allegedly sold a small plastic sachet containing suspected shabu to a poseur buyer-confidential informant outside the residence.
Sarabia was allegedly the supplier of the illegal drugs.
But the accused told the court a different story backed by CCTV footage as evidence, demolishing the claim of the agents. They presented CCTV footage showing that Torres, Dabao, Ozoa and Aranas were picked up by PDEA agents near a traveler’s lodge and forced into a blue Asian Utility Vehicle.
The same vehicle was also used to pick up Sarabia in front of a restaurant. They were later brought to Torres’s house where the supposed buy-bust operation took place. The AUV was later found to be registered to PDEA.
“The court is convinced that the accused in these cases were arrested in places other than where the supposed buy-bust operation took place and at a much earlier time than that declared by PDEA agents,” the court said.
This is not the first time a court overturned a drug case or claim by law enforcers.
In 2016, a Makati court junked a case filed against Australian Damian John Berg by the PNP-Anti Illegal Drugs Group that claimed he was arrested after selling illegal drugs outside a hotel.
But CCTV footage belied the police claim as it showed them barging inside the hotel room where Berg was staying and arrested him without a warrant. Berg later told the court he was asked to cough up as much as P2 million for his release, which he refused to do.
Earlier this year, the DOJ recommended the filing of criminal cases against 11 so-called “ninja cops” led by Police Maj. Rodney Baloyo IV over a 2013 anti-drug raid they conducted against a suspected drug lord in Angeles, Pampanga.
Former PNP chief Oscar Albayalde, the provincial director of Pampanga when the anti-drug operation was conducted by his men, was charged with graft before the Office of the Ombudsman.