Mayor caught with shabu haul
- Christina Mendez () - October 15, 2001 - 12:00am
This drug ring uses a government-issued ambulance to avoid detection.

A town mayor in Quezon province and three of his henchmen, one of them a Chinese national, were arrested yesterday by joint elements of the police Narcotics Group and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) while allegedly transporting to Manila 498 kilos of high-grade shabu with a street value of nearly P1 billion.

Mayor Ronnie Tena Mitra of Panukulan town in Quezon province was arrested along with Willie Yao, 24, a native of Fookien, China; and his security aides Javier Morilla and Roel Dequilla.

The contraband, contained in 15 sacks, was found inside an ambulance being driven by Morilla with Mitra and Yao as passengers.

A Hyundai Starex van sporting a special license plate marked "Mayor" and driven by Dequilla was escorting the ambulance.

The two vehicles refused to yield to a police checkpoint set up in Barangay Kiloloran in Real town, Quezon. This triggered a long chase that ended with the arrest of the suspects.

The mayor’s group became the object of a close surveillance conducted by agents of the NarcGroup and the NBI with the help of the 414th Mobile Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The checkpoint was specifically set up to intercept the shabu shipment.

The drugs had been transferred from a Chinese ship to small fishing boats off Quezon.

Navy patrols were immediately dispatched to locate the ship.

PNP chief Director General Leandro Mendoza said investigators were still looking into the background of Yao.

NarcGroup director Chief Superintendent Reynor Gonzales said foreign narcotics agents tipped off their Philippine counterparts about the shipment, and police staked out the coast of Quezon, a known drop-off point for illegal drugs from China.

Police authorities said much of the shabu sold in the Philippines comes from China and is smuggled in through the poorly guarded coastlines. Shabu is one of the most abused drugs in the country, where drug trafficking is punishable by death.

Camp Crame officials said it was the second biggest single haul of shabu for the current year.

The biggest was made last April in Lipa City in Batangas where authorities raided a laboratory and confiscated about a ton of cooked and uncooked shabu.

Meanwhile, drug charges were being prepared against Mitra and his cohorts.–With Rene Alviar, Arnell Ozaeta

A HYUNDAI STAREX ARNELL OZAETA BARANGAY KILOLORAN CAMP CRAME CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT REYNOR GONZALES DIRECTOR GENERAL LEANDRO MENDOZA JAVIER MORILLA AND ROEL DEQUILLA LIPA CITY MAYOR RONNIE TENA MITRA OF PANUKULAN MITRA AND YAO QUEZON
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