Philippines Senate and House of Representatives to probe ‘P50-million drug bribe mess’
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Tuesday saw Philippines President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, direct Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) officials and Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez to investigate and charge the people involved in an alleged drug bribery attempt involving wealthy Filipino families. The president also instructed the chair of the Dangerous Drugs Board, Vicente Sotto III to keep in custody the drug suspects, the so-called 'Alabang Boys'. This pending the DOJ's reinvestigation of the alleged P50-million bribe mess.
In September, Richard Santos Brodett, age 25, Jorge Jordana Joseph, age 22, and Joseph Ramirez Tecson, age 23, members of the "Alabang Boys", were arrested in a series of buy-bust operations in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, and Cubao in Quezon City. 60 ecstasy tablets, small bags of marijuana and cocaine sachets were taken from the suspects by the drug agents. The three suspects underwent the DOJ's preliminary investigation, but the drug case was dismissed by a draft resolution signed by 2 prosecutors from the National Prosecution Service on December 2.
In the challenged resolution, State Prosecutor John Resado, with the recommending approval of Senior State Prosecutor Philip I. Kimpo and Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, noted that the police operatives conducted illegal arrests and unlawful warrantless searches on the vehicles of the three suspects. In addition, Joseph was “under the control of the PDEA agents without the presence of any counsel when information against respondent Tecson was extracted from him,” it added.
The PDEA has accused the suspect's family members of attempting to pay a 50 million Philippine peso bribe to one of the DOJ prosecutors handling the drug case; in exchange the case was to be dismissed. PDEA Special Enforcement Service head Major Ferdinand Marcelino has revealed that the 50 million peso bribe offer to a DOJ prosecutor was merely the first attempt of three. The Tecson family reportedly offered him 3 million pesos which was later raised to 20 million for the release of the suspects. PDEA Legal and Prosecution Service lawyer Alvaro Lazaro affirmed Marcelino's accusations, which, however, were all denied by the suspects' families.
The Chief State Prosecutor, Jovencito Zuño, categorically dismissed accusations that 50 million pesos had changed hands, and that he and the prosecutors had been bribed. "It's not true. That's a big lie. They're just speculating," he said. Zuño has also alleged that the factual findings were first reviewed by state prosecutors Philip Quimpo and Misael Ladaga. The Justice Secretary has ordered the NBI to investigate not only the government prosecutors but also the PDEA.
According to PDEA chief, Ret. Gen. Dionisio Santiago, the "Alabang Boys" - Richard Santos Brodett, Jorge Jordana Joseph and Joseph Ramirez Tecson - are part of an international drug network. "This is a big group, and they use the Internet to get drugs from America. This operation may lead to a bigger one. They (Alabang Boys) are second in line. It's hard to penetrate the second line," Santiago explained. (DOJ) Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez on Thursday, however, has asked PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago to submit evidence to show that money changed hands or had been paid to DOJ prosecutors handling the case amid the pending NBI probe of the matter.
Meanwhile, The Philippines Congress is set to hold Congressional hearings on the case with a view to introducing legislation. "This is a big scandal involving a government agency," said House vice chairman of committee on illegal drugs, Representative Antonio Cuenco of Cebu City. He has said that the House of Representatives' probe will begin on January 5. The three suspects are still detained at the PDEA Quezon City detention centre.
The Senate of the Philippines is also set to conduct hearing on the bribery mess. According to Dangerous Drugs Board chair Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, Sen. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, chair of the Senate committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs, has agreed to lead a Senate inquiry investigating the 50-million peso drug bribe.
In a related drug bust operation, La Union Rep. Tomas Dumpit said that the buy-bust in his province had a 'similar ending.' "That's very possible just like the case in Naguilian, La Union where a shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) laboratory was discovered in Barangay Bimotobot, Naguilian, La Union worth one trillion pesos but it was dismissed by the DOJ." In July, a "shabu" laboratory was searched by the PDEA and the local police, who discovered eight truckloads of equipment and chemicals that could produce 180,000 kilograms of the prohibited drugs. La Union Bishop Artemio Rillera has recently petitioned the President to re-open the cases. On November 12, the DoJ three-member prosecution panel dismissed the cases against former Dagupan police chief Supt. Dionicio Borromeo, four policemen and the shabu laboratory lot owner. Because of the 'Alabang Boys' bribery mess, President Arroyo on Tuesday, ordered the reinvestigation of the shabu laboratory case.
This is not the first time that the Philippine judiciary and government had been involved in massive corruption. In the recent GSIS-Meralco bribery case, the High Court dismissed Associate Justice Vicente Q. Roxas, punished Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr. with 2 months suspension, and reprimanded 2 other CA Justices. In September 2006, Atty. Romeo Roxas accused Justice Minita Chico-Nazario of issuing a ruling for certain considerations, and calling the Supreme Court a “dispenser of injustice”. Roxas said her decision ordering him and one Santiago Pastor to return more than 17 million Philippine pesos to Antonio de Zuzuarregui Jr. was wrong and unjust. Roxas told Nazario: to “sleep well if you still can” and that she would be judged by the “Supreme Dispenser of Justice.” Roxas was cited for indirect contempt and fined 30,000 Philippine pesos.
In April 2007, Philippine Court of Appeals then Presiding Justice Ruben Reyes has ordered an investigation and a regular auditing and inventory of temporary restraining orders (TROs) issued by the 69 CA Justices. Reyes stated: “I will order a monthly or quarterly inventory of TROs, for transparency and to watch the movements of the so-called Dirty Dozen [the 12 most corrupt CA justices].” CJ Reynato Puno said that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez had not yet submitted the list and the Supreme Court was waiting for its delivery amid her formal investigation against the “Dirty Dozen.”
In September 2007, Lawyer Victor de la Serna has accused Justice Dante Tinga of accepting a 10-million bribe Philippine pesos in the Johnny Chan versus Carmelita Fudot lawsuit, regarding a land located in Doljo, Panglao, Bohol. De la Serna alleged that in the September 26, 2007 meeting, Chan, owner of Bellevue Hotel, paid Tinga 10 million Philippine pesos in exchange for a favorable decision. On September 13, 2007, Tinga penned a decision in favor of Chan’s Cattleya Land Inc., over Fudot, client of De La Serna. The court, however, upheld Tinga, and fined De La Serna 30,000 Philippine pesos for indirect contempt.
In September 2007, Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago has denied charges that she received 10-million Philippine pesos (US$ 224,000) bribe money (as published by The Daily Tribune, Malaya newspaper's Amado Macasaet and Newsbreak, the previous week).
In January 2005, and December 2006, Philippines Social Weather Stations has released the results of its 2 surveys on corruption in the judiciary. It has reported that: a) "like 1995, 1/4 of lawyers said many/very many judges are corrupt. But (49%) stated that a judges received bribes, just 8% of lawyers admitted they reported the bribery, because they could not prove it. [Tables 8-9]; judges, however, said, just 7% call many/very many judges as corrupt[Tables 10-11] ;b) Judges see some corruption; proportions who said - many/very many corrupt judges or justices: 17% in reference to RTC judges, 14% to MTC judges, 12% to Court of Appeals justices, 4% i to Shari'a Court judges, 4% to Sandiganbayan justices and 2% in reference to Supreme Court justices [Table 15]."
According to the 2008 Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) report, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and China are considered among the most corrupt Asian economies. “The Philippines is a sad case when it comes to corruption, and is probably no worse than in places like Indonesia and Thailand,” the report added. PERC has revealed that "the Philippines scored 9.0 out of a possible 10 points under a grading system used by PERC under which zero is the best score and 10 the worst."
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of the Philippines last week, has affirmed the conviction and 40 years imprisonment sentence of Zeng Wa Shui, a Chinese citizen and Maribel Lagman, his Filipino partner. On March 14, 1996, both had possession, in Angeles City, Pampanga, of more than 600 kilos of liquid shabu and more than 1,600 kilos of ephedrine hydrochloride, a main ingredient in the production of the drug.
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