By Martin Sadongdong
The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) ordered on Friday the relief of the Las Pinas City Police chief and the entire 36-man anti-drug unit of the station after four of them were accused of robbery-extortion by a relative of a drug suspect they earlier apprehended.
NCRPO Director Guillermo Eleazar relieved Sr. Supt. Marion Balonglong, chief of Las Pinas police over command responsibility, together with Sr. Insp. Edgardo Tigbao, chief of Las Pinas police’s Station Drug Enforcement Unit (SDEU) and its entire anti-drug unit personnel.
The relief stemmed from the arrest of a 13-year-old boy, who was allegedly used by four Las Pinas anti-drug cops to collect a P200,000 “bail” money from an alias Shel, sister of Cyrus who was earlier arrested for alleged possession of marijuana. (Names have been changed for their security.)
The 13-year-old boy was apprehended in an entrapment operation by joint elements of the Las Pinas City Police, Paranaque City Police and Silang, Cavite Municipal Police on Wednesday night along Quirino Avenue corner Victor Medina Street, Paranaque City.
According to Eleazar, the boy later confessed that he was ordered by PO3 Joel Lupig, PO2 Vener Guanlao, PO1 Jefferson Fulgencio and PO1 Jeffrey De Leon to get the money from Shel in exchange for Cyrus’s freedom. The four policemen managed to escape during the entrapment operation, Eleazar added.
The boy will be placed under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Eleazar said. Recovered from him during the entrapment operation was the P30,000 boodle money, a gun replica and a motorcycle allegedly owned by a certain PO1 Buenaventura.
‘Help me, sister’
Prior to the 13-year-old boy’s arrest, Shel told Eleazar that she received a text message from Cyrus on Wednesday morning, November 21, and said he was asking for help.
“He said, ‘Help me, sister.’ I already had a hunch that something bad happened to my brother. Then I received a call around 6 a.m. from a man. He said ‘Are you willing to help your brother? Produce P200,000,” Shel narrated in Filipino.
At around 10 a.m., the man called again, and asked Shel if she already had the P200,000 “bail”. However, Shel said it was too much and asked the police to just file the case.
She then asked for the identity of the man on the phone, and where her brother would be transferred — to which she got this response: “Anong mas importante ‘yung pangalan ko o ‘yung kapatid mo? Hindi niyo na makikita ang kapatid mo.” (What’s more important my name or your brother? You will never see your brother again.)
Shel said she managed to produce P20,000, but the suspects demanded P10,000 more before they could release her brother, not knowing that the victims already asked police help which led to the entrapment operation.
Lupig, Guanlao, Fulgencio and De Leon are all assigned at the Las Pinas SDEU. They were previously removed from the unit, but was reassigned last October 3, 2018 when Tigbao was reinstated in his position as chief of Las Pinas SDEU, the Southern Police District (SPD) said.
Aside from the four primary suspects and Tigbao, two other cops are being investigated by the NCRPO for possible involvement in the case, Eleazar said.
They were identified as PO2 Jason Arellano and PO1 Erickson Rivera, also assigned at Las Pinas SDEU. They were formerly assigned at Las Pinas police station 8 where served as station commander prior to his reinstatement at Las Pinas SDEU.
Eleazar said he has already ordered the Southern Police District (SPD) and the NCRPO-RSOU to conduct a manhunt operation against the four suspects.
“These four cops (Lupig, Guanlao, Fulgencio and De Leon) did not appear when they were summoned by the Southern Police District. Meaning, they are guilty. The others (Tigbao, Arellano and Rivera), they reported to SPD for accounting and they were already transferred there for further investigation,” Eleazar said.
Las Pinas police chief Sr. Supt. Balonglong and the other relieved SDEU personnel were also transferred to the SPD Holding and Accounting Unit (DHAU).
Balonglong was replaced by Sr. Supt. Simnar Gran, former chief of Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division of NCRPO effective Friday.