The incumbent Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director-general and two of his predecessors have rejected reports that 30 percent of confiscated drugs were given to informants who possibly reverted them to the street market.
The denials came even as two policemen were ordered jailed for contempt by Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Raffy Tulfo during yesterday’s Senate inquiry on the alleged police complicity in the illegal drugs trade.
During the hearing conducted by the Senate public order and illegal drugs committee, PDEA director-general Moro Virgilio Lazo and his predecessors, Wilkins Villanuneva and Aaron Aquino, took exceptions to reports about the so-called “drug rewards” following successful police raids.
Committee chairman Dela Rosa and Tulfo were visibly irritated by the “blatant lies” ostensibly aired by PDEA agents Master Sergeants Jerrywin Rebosora and Lorenzo Catarata.
Lazo, who said he was new in the PDEA, asserted that they usually sought him from civilian informants.
He said the informants offered to help on the condition that they would get 30 percent of the confiscated drugs.
Lazo maintained that the that the PDEA would insist on monetary rewards in accordance with the law.
Lazo said some informants personally told him about an incident when the PDEA did not fulfill its part of the bargain.
“When we came face to face, I asked them why? They. Answered; “Sir, yun daw ang kalakaran, to use their words. Pati rin daw sa kabila…they were referring to the PNP,” Lazo said at the hearing.
However, Villanuneva said the alleged setup was never practiced when he was PDEA chief for 20 years.
Villanueva added that during his watch, the PDEA’s anti-drug operations were essentially based on intelligence information through official channels rather than on informants.
“I’m sorry, sir, ‘yung lumapit sayo, I assure you basurero ng droga yan sir. Kasi kung mag-aano ka ng 30 percent, magbabasura ka ng droga. San mo ibabasura yan? Sa barangay. No other else. So ibig sabihin kukuha ka ng malaking seizure ‘yung 30 percent dito ilalagay mo sa influenced barangay,” Villanueva said.
According to Villanueva, the 30 percent reward “will definitely come out.”
But Tulfo argued that the scheme could be a possibility in the PDEA because Lazo’s supposed informant was quite certain on the percentage that was supposedly given after the successful operations.
Dela Rosa assured Lazo that his committee “was not trying to shoot the messenger.”
“In this case, you are the messenger. We are not trying to shoot you down. We are very thankful for your information. It opened up a can of worms. If the can being opened has no worms, only the truth will come out,” Dela Rosa said.
But he reminded Lazo that being the messenger, he still has a moral obligation to send the message clearly to the intended recipient.
“Please do due diligence on your part to follow that informant and we can come out with the truth,” he said.
The senator also stressed that the 30-percent setup this practice during his time as Philippine National Police chief under the Duterte administration.
“It’s hurtful, it’s saddening and I’m more than angry when I saw that video when DG Lazo told Cong. (Robert) Barbers that there’s a 30-percent cut itong mga informers natin. Definitely, hindi mangyayari yon,” Aquino said.
He added that the current PDEA officials should have arrested those who made the claim.
“With due respect to DG Lazo, if that happened to me, I will handcuff them. They have the guts to approach a director general to make an offer na 30 percent. It seems not right,” Aquino said.
Former PDEA director-general Isidro Lapena backed Villanueva in refuting the said practice of rewarding informants with part of the confiscated drugs. He also said it did not happen during his watch.
“I can say with certainty we did our best, a very vigorous campaign against drugs. I was the first DG of PDEA under the Duterte administration. It has to be very vigorous, relentless and I think we have delivered,” Lapena said.
Lazo’s information was corroborated by Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
“I would just like to put straight on record what Sir Moro Lazo, na ‘yung sa kabila where he was referring to PNP. Actually sir, the PNP never tolerated that 30 percent, but I commend Gen. Lazo for being honest because as the former PNP Drug Enforcement Group, I encountered that kind of offer that 30 percent of every seized drug…I encountered that,” he said.
Dela Rosa then requested Lazo to do a follow up with the supposed informants as the senator floated at the early part of the hearing the possibility of the informants turning into whistleblowers and implicate those behind this alleged scheme.