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Ex-PDEA chiefs refute claim that rewarding informant with seized drugs a norm

Ex-PDEA chiefs refute claim that rewarding informant with seized drugs a norm

Three former director-generals of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) have refuted the claim that some of their agents were rewarding their informants with 30% of the seized illegal drugs from successful operations.

At a Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee hearing Wednesday, incumbent PDEA Director-General Moro Virgilio Lazo narrated how he got this information which he first divulged at a hearing of the House of Representatives.

Since he is new to the post, Lazo said, through a close friend who is a retired Philippine National Police (PNP) officer, they sought help from informants.

These informants offered to help them but they will get 30% of the confiscated drugs, he added.

He said he maintained that PDEA will only give monetary rewards as provided under the law.

He decided to face these informants as they wanted to get assurance that they will receive this monetary reward, Lazo said.

"They mentioned one incident na hindi raw nakarating sa kanila kasi 'yung reward. Kaya through this close friend of mine na kailangan harapin para magkaroon sila ng assurance na hindi sila tatablahin o talagang maibibigay ang reward,” he narrated.

(They mentioned one incident wherein the reward did not reach them. So I met them through this close friend of mine so they will have the assurance that they will not be duped or that they will really be given the reward.)

“Nagkaharap-harap nga kami. Tinanong ko rin kung bakit gano'n. Eh sabi nila sir 'yun daw ang kalakaran, to use their words. Pati rin daw sa kabila...They were referring to the PNP,” Lazo said.

(We met face-to-face. I asked them why it is like that. They said that's really the norm, to use their words. It's also the same with the other [agency].)

But former PDEA Director-General Wilkins Villanuneva said this was never a practice during his time as PDEA chief.

“Masakit, sir, ‘yung dinivulge kasi, sir, ang haba ng trabaho natin e. Twenty years ako sa PDEA at never naging kalakal namin 'yan e,” Villanueva said.

(It hurts, sir, to hear what was divulged because I worked there for a long time. I was with PDEA for 20 years and that has never been the norm.)

During his time, Villanueva said PDEA’s anti-drug operations are more from intelligence operations and “not really dependent on informants.”

“I’m sorry, sir, ‘yung lumapit sa 'yo, I assure you basurero ng droga 'yan', sir. Kasi kung mag-aano ka ng 30%, magbabasura ka ng droga. Sa'n mo ibabasura 'yan? Sa barangay. No other else.  So ibig sabihin kukuha ka ng malaking seizure. ‘Yung 30%, dito ilalagay mo sa influenced barangay,” Villanueva said.

(I'm sorry, sir. The one who approached you, I assure you is a drug peddler, sir. If you will take 30%, you will peddle drugs. Where will you bring that? In the barangay. No other else. So it means you need to have a bigger seizure [of drugs]. The 30%, you will peddle it in the influenced barangay.)

“Kasi kung may 30% ka kasi, sisingaw 'yan, sir. Imposibleng hindi sumingaw 'yan...Sisingaw 'yan sa mga law enforcement,” Villanueva said.

(Because if you have 30%, that will be known. It's impossible that it will not be known. Law enforcement will know.)

If he was in Lazo’s shoes, Villanueva said he would seek an intelligence operation on these supposed informants.

“Kung ako yung nilapitan, ang una kong tatrabahuhin, ‘yung lumapit sa akin. Kasi siguradong basurero kasi alam niya 'yung mga nag-30%. ‘Yun ang dapat kokonductan ko ng intelligence operation,” Villanueva said.

(If I were approached, the first thing I will do is have this person under surveillance. Because for sure that person is a drug peddler because he knows those who got 30%. That should be the subject of an intelligence operation.)

But Senator Raffy Tulfo said he believes that this is a possibility within PDEA because Lazo’s supposed informant was certain on the percentage that was given after the successful operations.

“It's possible na ‘yung sinasabi ng asset kay DG Lazo may katotohanan. We have to accept our fault, our weaknesses nang sa gayon do'n natin maso-solve ang isang problem. Maaaring may katotohanan. Imbes na babanggain ninyo you have to investigate,” Tulfo said.

(It's possible that there is some truth in what the asset is telling DG Lazo. We have to accept our fault, our weaknesses so that we can solve one problem. There might be truth in it. Instead of shutting it down, you have to investigate.)

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who presided over the hearing, said they are not grilling Lazo who divulged this reward scheme in PDEA and directed the director-general to stand with his information so it can be used to clean the law enforcement agency.

“General Lazo, this committee is 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 of your information. It opened up a can of worms. If the can being opened ay walang laman na worm, basta ang katotohanan ang lalabas dito... But remember [that] being the messenger you still have a moral obligation na maparating ang message clearly sa intended recipient,” Dela Rosa said.

(If the can being opened proves to have no worm, [that is okay] as long as the truth is brought out. But remember that being the messenger, you still have a moral obligation to convey the message clearly to the intended recipient.)

“Please do due diligence on your part to follow that informant at malabas natin ang katotohanan talaga (so we can get to the truth),” he added.

Former PDEA chief Aaron Aquino also denied that this practice was ongoing during his time.

“It’s hurtful, it’s saddening and I’m more than angry when I saw that video when DG Lazo told Cong. [Ace] Barbers that there's a 30% cut itong mga informers natin (that our informers get 30% cut). Definitely, hindi mangyayari yon (that will not happen),” Aquino said.

Aquino said the current PDEA officials should have taken custody of those who made the claim.

“With due respect to DG Lazo, sa totoo lang kung nangyari sa akin ‘yon, poposasan ko talaga ‘yung dalawang ‘yon kung sino man ang mga taong 'yon kasi ang kakapal ng mukha e. Parang ang lakas ng loob na lumapit sa isang director general to make an offer na 30%. Parang hindi tama e,” Aquino said.

(With due respect to DG Lazon, the truth is, if that happened to me, I will handcuff those two, whoever they are. They are so shameless. They seem to have no qualms about approaching a director general to make an offer for 30%. That doesn't seem right.)

Meanwhile, former PDEA director-general Isidro Lapeña backed Villanueva in refuting the said practice of rewarding informants with confiscated drugs.

“Not under my watch... I confirm ‘yung mga sinabi ni DG Wilkins Villanueva. Gano'n ang ginagawa namin noon. Siya ang NCR ako ang DG, and I can say with certainty we did our best, a very vigorous campaign against drugs. Ako ang unang DG ng PDEA under the Duterte administration. It has to be very vigorous, relentless and I think we have delivered,” Lapeña said.

(I confirm what DG Wilkins Villanueva said. That's what we did before. He took charge of NCR when I was DG... I was the first DG of PDEA under the Duterte administration...)


Lazo’s information was corroborated by Police Brigadier General Romeo Caramat, the chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

“I would just like to put straight on record na 'yung sinabi ni Sir Moro Lazo, sir, na ‘yung sa kabila where he was referring to PNP. Actually sir, the PNP never tolerated that 30% but I commend Gen. Lazo for being honest because as the former PNP Drug Enforcement Group, I encountered that kind of offer that 30% of every seized drug...I encountered that,” he said.

“May nag-ooffer din sa amin sa mga ganyan...Maaring nangyayari noon at nangyayari ngayon ‘yon dahil hindi naman magkaka-idea itong mga asset na ito kung hindi practice noon. Malaki ang possibility na nangyayari ang mga gano'ng offer,” he added.

(There were also those who offered us that scheme. That may have happened before and it may be happening now because these assets will not have an idea about it if this was not practiced before. There is a big possibility that these offers are being made.

Dela Rosa then requested Lazo to do a follow-up with the supposed informants as the senator floated at the early part of hearing the possibility of these tipsters to be turned as whistleblowers so they can implicate those who were behind this alleged scheme.

“Gusto nating malinis ang ating mga operative pagdating sa droga. Kaya sinabi ko kay Gen. Lazo, although alam kong suntok sa buwan 'yung aking requirement sa kanya na balikan ang informant niya, suntok sa buwan 'yan alam kong lumayas na 'yon... hindi na y'on nagpapakita, pero still, klaro tayo sir, you have to do this job. If this is our job, this may be very difficult, pero (but) you have to do it,” Dela Rosa said.

(We want our operatives to be clean when it comes to drugs. That is why I told Gen. Lazo, although I know this is a long shot, a long shot because the assets may have left already and vanished, still, this is clear, sir, you have to do this job.) —KG, GMA Integrated News