MISAPPROPRIATION or failure to account for confiscated drugs is a major offense punishable by life imprisonment and dismissal from the service, law enforcement and other public officials were reminded anew yesterday in the wake of ongoing investigation of charges that a group of former Pampanga policemen kept nearly P1 billion worth of shabu they seized in an anti-narcotics operation in 2013.
Section 27 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 is very strict when it comes to the ‘Criminal Liability of a Public Officer or Employee for Misappropriation, Misapplication or Failure to Account for the Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment Including the Proceeds or Properties Obtained from the Unlawful Act Committed.’
The law states that ‘the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,-000.00), in addition to absolute perpetual disqualification from any public office, shall be imposed upon any public officer or employee who misappropriates, misapplies or fails to account for confiscated, seized or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment including the proceeds or properties obtained from the unlawful acts as provided for in the law.’
There have been charges that the group of former Police Superintendent Rodney Baloyo who was demoted to the rank of Police Major as a result of the highly-irregular anti-drug operation in Pampanga in 2013 did not file any criminal case against suspected drug lord Johnson Lee.
Instead, the scalawag policemen arrested a Chinese national named Ding Wenkun and presented him to the press as the owner of the 38 kilograms of shabu they recovered.
Baloyo and 12 of his men were accused of declaring only 38 kilos of the so-called ‘poor man’s cocaine’ during the raid although officials believe they actually recovered more than 200 kilos of the drug worth around P1 billion that year.
The Pampanga policemen were accused of letting Lee escape after they were paid P50 million by the suspect. The name of PNP chief, General Oscar D. Albayalde has been dragged into the controversy since he was the Pampanga Police Provincial Office director then and Baloyo was his intelligence chief.
The PNP leadership has been very vocal about the need to fully implement RA 9165. In 2016, the discovery of shabu and ‘tawas’ in the lockers of some Quezon City Police District personnel undergoing investigation for involvement in drug offenses also sparked a controversy.
Then QCPD director, now National Capital Region Police Office director, Major General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar ordered an investigation on the discovery of shabu and around three kilograms of alum locally known as ‘tawas’ in the lockers of some QCPD personnel ordered relieved of their post amid charges they were involved in drug shenanigans.
The bags of ‘tawas’ found during a cleanup of the QCPD District Anti-Illegal Drugs’ barracks in Camp Karingal that time fuelded speculations they are being used to ‘recycle’ confiscated shabu.
Prior to that, four plastic sachets said to be containing shabu were also discovered in the barracks formerly occupied by the DAID operatives.
That year, Eleazar, a member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Hinirang’ Class of 1987 ordered the transfer of 35 DAID policemen to the QCPD District Headquarters Support Unit pending the results of an investigation into the activities of DAID official, Senior Inspector Ramon Castillo who was killed in a shootout with his colleagues during a buy-bust operation.
Castillo had been suspected of ‘recycling’ drugs confiscated in legitimate anti-narcotics operations by his team. Prior to the shootout, an undercover officer managed to buy five sachets of shabu from the officer. The successful ‘test-buy’ triggered the buy-bust operation which led to the killing of Castillo. Seized during the sting were 200 grams of shabu worth P1 million.
QCPD officials then said that they initially mistook the tawas for “shabu” but an examination conducted by the PNP Crime Laboratory showed they were alum.
Eleazar has been very strict with his men when it comes to the handling of seized evidence. “We have reminded all our operatives that all evidence, particularly illegal drugs, must be submitted to the Crime Laboratory immediately. To prevent similar incidents, we are also conducting surprise inspections,” he said.
Section 11 of RA 9165 also says that ‘the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall possess 50 grams or more of shabu, 500 grams or more of marijuana and 10 grams or more of marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil.