Army chief defends Marcelino in drug case
Alexis Romero ( - January 24, 2016 - 2:58am

MANILA, Philippines - Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año does not believe that his former subordinate, Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, is part of a drug syndicate, saying that the arrested military officer was really serious in fighting illegal drugs. 

Año said Marcelino has a crusade against illegal drugs and is angry with drug syndicates.

“Based on how I know him, I will never doubt his integrity. He is really a fighter against drug syndicates,” the Army chief said in an interview on Sunday.

“I don’t want to judge him based on what happened but based on what I know about him, I don’t believe he would be involved in any drug trafficking case or organization or syndicate,” he added.

Año, however, clarified that it would be difficult to comment on the actual incidents leading to Marcelino’s arrest. He noted that cases are being readied in connection with the raid.

“I do not know the details. I can only vouch for the character, personality and integrity of Lt. Col. Marcelino based on our working relationship when he was still under me,” he said.

Marcelino was commander of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) 4 when Año was chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). The Marine officer was detailed at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency when it was headed by former Armed Forces chief Dionisio Santiago. 

“When he (Marcelino) was the MIG 4 commander, he had a good performance,” Año said, adding that Marcelino was then working against organized crimes in support of law enforcement agencies. 

Marcelino and Chinese national Yan Yi Shou were nabbed last Thursday in a raid on a suspected shabu laboratory in Manila. Authorities seized some 76 kilos of illegal drugs worth P383 million during the operation.

The Marine officer is now facing charges for allegedly manufacturing, conspiring to manufacture, and possessing illegal drugs.

Marcelino is claiming that he was on a covert mission with the ISAFP when he was arrested and that he had nothing to do with the drug syndicate. Año, however, noted that the mission order he had issued to Marcelino lapsed two years ago. Marcelino was Superintendent of the Navy Officer Candidate School when the raid happened.

PDEA director general Arturo Cacdac Jr., however, has doubts on Marcelino’s claim and is wondering how a person tasked to conduct surveillance can be arrested inside a clandestine laboratory.

Marcelino was superintendent of the Naval Officer Candidate School when the raid happened. Año, however, thinks that Marcelino’s relief from ISAFP will not necessarily stop him from continuing his anti-drug advocacy. 

“He now belongs to another unit but it won’t stop him from his crusade of getting information against drug syndicates. You know, every citizen of the republic has the obligation and duty to help curb crime and fight crime,” the Army chief said.

Año said even after his stint as ISAFP chief, Marcelino was still providing information to Army units and intelligence units. He said Marcelino’s information made possible the raid of the Philippines’ biggest shabu laboratory in Camiling, Tarlac in November 2014.

When asked if Marcelino’s arrest was a case of miscommunication, Año replied: “It’s possible. If that’s the case, it will come out in the PDEA’s investigation. It is very simple to cross check that.”

Navy spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said Marcelino would be the best person to answer questions about his supposed mission order that prodded him to go to the drug laboratory.

“They are asking me whether it was job-related. I was telling them if you are going to look at the designation or position he has now, which is superintendent of officer candidate school, you will see that they are not immediately related,” Arevalo said.

“We’re not inclined and we don’t want to be perceived as prejudging him. That being an intelligence operation, there is what we call need to know basis, meaning only those who know about it will be informed. Now, who should be informed? It depends on the nature and magnitude of the intelligence operation,” he added.

A classmate of Marcelino at the Philippine Military Academy class ’94, meanwhile, has urged the public not to cast judgments on the Marine officer until he is convicted.

“For me, we should not judge the suspect, Lt. Col. Marcelino while he is undergoing the process of defending himself,” former Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said in a statement.

“I know him personally as a patriot, upright and a true enemy of drug syndicates,” he added.

Cabunoc said Marcelino was not lured by money and wealth during his stint at PDEA.

“Let us allow Lt. Col. Marcelino to defend himself and clear his name,” he added.

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