Inter-agency panel may probe fake PDEA buy-bust operation in Dumaguete

Published October 22, 2020, 5:36 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

The government’s inter-agency panel reviewing anti-illegal drugs operations might consider looking into the fake buy-bust operation committed by agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Dumaguete City, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Thursday, Oct. 22.

“The DOJ-led review panel focuses on illegal drug operations of law enforcement agents where deaths occurred,” said Justice Usec. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar said.

“But nothing prevents the review panel from expanding the scope of its mandate by including cases of simulated raids, buy-busts, and the like,” the DOJ spokesperson pointed out.

Last June, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNRC) that the government formed the panel to review all drug operations that resulted to deaths since the start of the administration of President Duterte.

Recently, Judge Amelia Lourdes Mendoza of Dumaguete City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 34 issued an order dated Oct. 9 which dismissed the drug charges against six persons who were arrested by the PDEA during a drug buy-bust operation last June 28 in Barangay Looc.

Those cleared of drug charges Richard Torres, Shinette Sarabia, Gabriel Aranas, Gwendell Ozoa, and Katrina Tish Dabao.

The magistrate said in her ruling that the closed circuit television (CCTV) footages in the area showed that the six accused were not arrested by the PDEA during a buy-bust operation at the house of Torres.

The judge said CCTV footages showed that the six accused were actually picked up by the PDEA from various places.

Because of the discovery, the magistrate initiated indirect contempt proceedings against PDEA agents SI II Nelson Muchuelas, IO 1 May Ann Carmelo, IO 1 Jose Anthony Juanites, IO 1 Cheryl Mae Villaver, and IO II Realyn Pinpin; Barangay Official Shiela Mae Catada; and media representative Juditho Fabillar.

Mendoza also asked the PDEA and the Dumaguete City Prosecutor’s Office which filed the charges in court to initiate investigation against the arresting officers.

However, Villar said the DOJ’s National Prosecution Service (NPS) which has jurisdiction over the Dumaguete Prosecutor’s Office cannot conduct an investigation into the case.

“For the DOJ-NPS to come into the picture there must be a complaint. The NPS is a prosecution service, not an investigation body,” said Villar who cited the Rules of Court.

The DOJ spokesperson said the PDEA, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), or the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) could file the complaint following the conduct of an investigation.

“The DOJ- NPS will wait for the charges and upon its filing, we exercise our jurisdiction,” she assured.