15 drug agents indicted
For covering-up P8-m extortion try
The Department of Justice on Tuesday approved the indictment of an intelligence official of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and 14 others for robbery with violence and intimidation charges, in connection with the alleged extortion of P8 million from a suspected drug lord.
In a resolution dated August 5, 2013, Assistant State Prosecutor Stewart Allan Mariano recommended the filing of criminal charges for violations of Articles 294 and 208 of the Revised Penal Code against PDEA Intelligence chief Zoilo Lachica Jr., Intelligence Officers Marvin Mendoza, Jonathan Morales, Gregorio Camua, Virgilio Castillo II, Mark Anthony Omones, Laila Abad, Martin Francia, Alvin Morales, Dave James Curioso, Rodolfo Caisip Jr., Antonio Romero Jr., and Norman de la Cruz Daez.
Criminal charges would also be filed against civilians Ernesto Garcia, Jr., Reynete De Isidro and Jonathan Gancuangco.
“Essentially, they were part of a grand cover-up to hide the crime, in the same manner that respondent Lachica, Jr. should likewise be held criminally liable not just for being the director of the IIS (Intelligence and Investigation Service) responsible for the overt actions of his subordinates,” the resolution stated.
“The crime of robbery has been proved to have been committed and it could not have been committed without the existence of conspiracy among all respondents,” it added.
However, Mariano dismissed the violation of Presidential Decree 1829 (An Act Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of
Criminal) that the National Bureau of Investigation – Reaction, Arrest and Interdiction Division (NBI-RAID) filed against former PDEA director Jose Gutierrez Jr., on the ground that there was no factual or legal basis to indict him for the said charge.
“While it is our honest view that respondent Jose S. Gutierrez Jr. cannot be held criminally liable in the case at bar, there are administrative sanctions which attach to his inaction as Director General of the PDEA, which is beyond our quasi-judicial function,” the DOJ prosecutor said.
Records showed that the NBI filed the complaint against Lachica, Gutierrez and 14 others stemming from the complaint filed by Mark Sy Tan, and his wife, Judy.
The couple alleged that PDEA operatives arrested Mark on July 18, 2012 when he arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. However, the copy of the warrant was not shown to him. He said the PDEA operatives also told him that members of the media were waiting for him at a press conference.
Mark said he was brought to the Intelligence and Investigation Service (IIS) office, where they were met by Romero and other IIS operatives. He said Romero told him that he should give P50 million for his release.
The amount was later reduced to P8 million. The money, based on the complaint, was deposited to a bank account that was later divided among the respondents.
The NBI, in its complaint, said the instruction was only for mere casing and surveillance. It said there was no spot report or progress report submitted regarding Mark’s arrest.
All of the accused denied the allegations against them.
In recommending the filing of charges against Lachica, the 11 PDEA intelligence officers, and three civilians, Mariano gave credence to the testimony of witness Berna Catacutan, a former nanny of respondent de Isidro.
Catacutan provided concrete details on how the extortion money was withdrawn upon the prodding of de Isidro, as well as the subsequent deposits to the accounts of Garcia Jr. and Gangcuangco, the prosecutor said.
“Plainly, the deposit of P8 million could not have been arranged to be deposited to Catacutan’s account without the involvement of Romero and other respondents who were present when the demand was earlier made,” the fiscal added.
After scrutinizing the authority to operate of the PDEA operatives, Mariano said that “there is no shadow of a doubt that it was issued for casing and surveillance only, and not primarily for the service of a warrant of arrest” against Tan, as attested to by respondent Morales.
“In all, by the very act of these respondents to wittingly kowtow to the defenses of alibi and denial of their cohorts, it is manifest that they were in cahoots with each other to hide the commission of the crime,” Mariano concluded.
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