Mexican drug cartel now in Phl – PDEA
Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - December 27, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A Mexican drug cartel is now selling shabu (methamphetamine) in the Philippines, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said yesterday.

Authorities believed the 84 kilos of shabu worth P420 million seized during an operation at a ranch in Lipa City, Batangas on Christmas Day could be traced to the Mexican Sinaloa drug syndicate.

PDEA director general Arturo Cacdac Jr. said Mexico was the latest foreign country that has smuggled illegal drugs, particularly shabu, into the country, in addition to China and West African nations.

“We have monitored Chinese drug syndicates, then West African drug syndicates. Now we have confirmed that the Mexican Sinaloa drug syndicate has also penetrated the Philippine market,” said Cacdac in a press conference in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Cacdac said the confirmation was made with the assistance of the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

He said the PDEA and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are closely working to counter the operation of the drug syndicates.

“It is part of our investigation how the cartel was able to penetrate our country. So we are still in the process of determining what is the history behind the arrest of these people,” said PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.

The Sinaloa cartel is reputed to be the largest source of illegal drugs to the United States.

Its main leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001. He is now America’s most wanted drug trafficker, as well as being considered by Forbes as the most powerful criminal on the planet.

Senior Superintendent Bartolome Tobias, chief of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF), said Gary Tan, alias Gary Chua, who was among three suspects arrested at the LPL Ranch in Lipa City, has links with the Mexican drug cartel.

“Pieces of info received by AIDSOTF showed a certain Gary Tan operating in Metro Manila and nearby regions. He has been working with a certain George Torres, an American with US passport, and both appeared in the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel,” said Tobias.

Aside from Tan, agents arrested Argay Argenos and his wife Rochelle during the raid, which also resulted in the seizure of 84 kilos of shabu packed in 84 vacuum sealed plastic bags placed in four traveling bags, a caliber .45 pistol with a magazine and 10 live ammunition, and a 12 gauge Winchester rifle with four live ammunition.

Purisima said authorities are looking into the link of the owner of LPL Ranch in Barangay Inosluban in Lipa to syndicate operations.

“We are studying the possibility of confiscating (the ranch) in favor of the government because it was used for drug business, but we all know they were just leasing the property and we will be consulting our lawyers,” the PNP chief noted.

When asked how the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel managed to penetrate the Philippine market without being intercepted upon entry, Purisima said the geographical location of the country could be one of the factors.

“We have 7,000 islands. If you go down south you can freely go to Sabah. There were times when they don’t pass through immigration. In piers, there were reports before containers were not opened, not checked so we have suspicions but we do not have evidence,” said Purisima. “There are so many ways of transporting drugs into our country.”

He said there were also cases when illegal drugs are manufactured in local shabu laboratories. “Sometimes we have seen laboratories being set up in different parts of the country. So it’s part of the job of the AIDSOTF and PDEA and we are working closely together to address these problems,” he added.

Raps filed against suspects

 The three suspects arrested in the LPL Ranch in Lipa were charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday afternoon.

Charges of violation of Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) and several other complaints were filed against Tan and the Argenos couple before the office of Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera.

Navera said he would issue a resolution after reviewing the evidence submitted by the police against the respondents.

Police said the LPL Ranch is reportedly owned by former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste, who recently stepped out of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City after being granted parole following his conviction for the 2007 killing of long-time aide Rafael delas Alas.

Investigators said the farm was being leased out by Leviste to a certain Jorge Torres, now the subject of a manhunt. Leviste’s daughter Toni, a top equestrian, vehemently denied that their family owned the LPL ranch in Barangay Inosluban in Lipa.

“That’s not our farm, ours is not even in the same compound. I heard it’s in the compound that my uncle had developed in Lipa but that has nothing to do with my dad. We don’t even own anything in the same development,” she explained.

Leviste reacted to a newspaper report yesterday (not The STAR) mentioning her father as owner of the LPL ranch, a vast gamecock breeding farm.

“We don’t know the tenants at all, nor do we go to that area, since our own farm is not in that area, ours is in another direction (towards Balete town). Our farm is in fact near the Lipa City Hall where the parole board office is, where my dad has to report monthly as part of his parole conditions,” she added. “My uncle (who owns LPL ranch) has actually been incapacitated since having a stroke over 10 years ago and a kidney transplant early this year. I can’t see why that has anything to do with the drugs seized, even if it’s in his property. Just like the drugs seized in Ayala Alabang a few years ago, the developers of the village had nothing to do with the issue, why do they have to mention my father’s name?”

She said insinuations were unfair as their farm “is an eco farm where even smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol is discouraged, so having drugs within our premises is out of this world.”

Leviste was released from the NBP earlier this month after being granted parole by the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP).

The BPP had explained that Leviste had met all the requirements for parole, including serving of minimum period of his sentence for homicide conviction for the 2007 killing of delas Alas and good conduct while inside the NBP in Muntinlupa City. With Edu Punay, Arnell Ozaeta

BARANGAY INOSLUBAN DRUG DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY DRUGS GARY TAN LEVISTE LIPA CITY MEXICAN SINALOA MUNTINLUPA CITY RANCH
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