House undecided on probe of Marcelino’s drug links

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The House committee on dangerous drugs is still deciding whether or not it will conduct an inquiry on the alleged involvement of Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino in the illegal drug trade.

Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, committee chairman, said yesterday he is waiting for more reports from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) as well as resolutions, if any, to be filed by committee members.

Belmonte expressed doubts about Marcelino’s story that he was conducting an undercover operation, but said the officer must be given the benefit of the doubt and accorded due process.

“The way I see it, he has no authority at all,” Belmonte told The STAR. “No matter how secret his intelligence operation may be —assuming there was one — he must be reporting to a higher authority or official.”

He said such an operation, no matter how secret, has a case study prepared before it is launched.

“It also can’t be that he is undertaking this in his private capacity because he is supposedly an anti-drug advocate,” he said.

Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support party-list Rep. Samuel Pagdilao said large-scale anti-drug operations must be cleared by a single government agency to avoid them being duplicated, compromised or abused.

Pagdilao, former head of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said the surprising arrest of Marcelino, who was a former official of PDEA, in a shabu laboratory in Manila last Thursday turned into a puzzling situation when the Marine officer claimed that he was conducting intelligence operations for the government.

Marcelino, former head of the PDEA Special Enforcement Service, was arrested by combined elements of PDEA and the AIDG alongside former PDEA interpreter Yan Yi Shou, alias Randy.

The police team seized 76 kilos of shabu worth P383 million and a Toyota Camry.

“His claims that he is on an intelligence operation may be true, or may be false. A certification from a government agency, that is to be held confidential until events like this occurs, should be made in order to avoid compromising the mission,” Pagdilao said.

He called on the Congressional Oversight Committee on Dangerous Drugs to investigate the incident, and to determine the need for operations similar to what Marcelino claims to be cleared by a single government agency.

The Senate tackled yesterday the possibility of authorizing PDEA and other agencies involved in the fight against illegal drugs to wiretap calls of suspected drug lords.

PDEA director general Arturo Cacdac admitted before the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that authorities are having a hard time pinning down big-time drug lords who would conduct transactions by phone and the Internet.

The drug lords are careful about being caught red-handed with the drugs, which was why the illicit trade proliferates despite efforts by anti-drug operatives, Cacdac said.

Cacdac also reiterated that the PDEA conducted a legitimate operation when its operatives swooped down on a clandestine drug laboratory last week in Manila, which also resulted in the arrest of Marcelino and his alleged Chinese cohort.

Cacdac later told the committee chaired by Sen. Grace Poe that he was standing by his men and the integrity of their recent operations.

He lamented that some are imputing malice to the raid.

“I’ve been professional all my life. I will not do it to a brother-officer,” Cacdac told Poe.

Marcelino insisted that he was on a special mission targeting drug syndicates, even asserting he was with the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) — a claim debunked by both Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento and Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri.

Good service record

The AFP said Marcelino has maintained a good service reputation and his work ethic in the military has been unquestionable until his arrest by agents of the PDEA in Sta. Cruz, Manila last week.

“We cannot judge as of this time. There are many operations occurring that have deeper origins and basis so in our case, we leave it to the investigating authorities to determine that, but we are sure that in the end the truth behind this will come out and the colonel’s reputation will come out strong,” Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman said.

Multiple military and PDEA sources, meanwhile, corrected various reports that Marcelino was nabbed red-handed inside the clandestine shabu laboratory.

They said that PDEA agents initially chanced upon him while on shadow sleuthing outside.

While Marcelino and a tipster were inside, PDEA chief Cacdac arrived and ordered his men to put handcuffs on the Marine officer. With Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude





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