DOJ: Palace offering P10-M bounty for Acierto

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
DOJ: Palace offering P10-M bounty for Acierto
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra revealed that the Palace has raised the bounty for any information that would lead to Acierto’s arrest.
File Photo

MANILA, Philippines — The hunt for former police official Eduardo Acierto, who is wanted on drug charges over the smuggling of billions worth of shabu shipments last year, intensified as the government yesterday offered a P10-million reward for his arrest.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra revealed that the Palace has raised the bounty for any information that would lead to Acierto’s arrest.

“The bounty is from Malacañang, so I’m not privy to where it will be sourced. It’s not from DOJ because such amount is certainly much larger than what the DOJ could offer,” he said in a text message.

Guevarra said the DOJ will not offer a similar reward money and instead focus on Acierto’s possible coddlers and protectors.

“We will have them wherever Acierto may be found hiding and brought to inquest immediately,” he stressed.

He reiterated that Acierto’s coddlers violating Section 4 of the Dangerous Drugs Law (importation of illegal drugs) are likewise criminally liable under Section 4 and stand to suffer imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to P500,000.

The DOJ chief further bared that Bureau of Immigration (BI) records showed that Acierto and another accused, former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) deputy director for administration Ismael Fajardo, are still in the country.

He said Acierto last left the country on April 17, 2017 and Fajardo on May 29, 2015.

Guevarra said there is no record indicating that the two managed to leave the country recently.

The Manila regional trial court (RTC) issued an arrest warrant and hold departure order (HDO) against Acierto and other accused last April.

Covered by the orders apart from Acierto are former PDEA deputy Fajardo; importers Chan Yee Wah alias KC Chan and Zhou Quan alias Zhang Quan; consignees Vedasto Cabral Baraquel Jr. and Maria Lagrimas Catipan of Vecaba Trading; and Emily Luquingan.

Another accused, former Customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban, was taken into custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last April 17.

The DOJ indicted Acierto and other accused in court after finding probable cause in the charges filed against them by the NBI.

The case stemmed from the successive seizure in August last year of two abandoned magnetic lifters at the Port of Manila which contained 355 kilos of shabu worth P2.4 billion and four magnetic lifters at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite believed to have been used to smuggle 1.6 tons of shabu worth P11 billion.  

The BI yesterday said they have added in their hold departure order (HDO) list the names of Acierto, Fajardo, Chan, Zhou, Baraquel, Catipan and Liquingan.

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said they are subjects of an HDO issued last April 12 by Judge Maria Bernardita Santos of the Manila RTC Branch 35.

She said that based on BI records there has been no recent departure records for both Acierto and Fajardo. 

The court earlier issued a warrant of arrest against Acierto but he is still at large.

Last month, Acierto came out and revealed that President Duterte’s economic adviser Michael Yang has possible links to illegal drugs that could reach up to officials in Davao City.

Acierto insinuated that Duterte had ordered the killing of thousands of drug suspects on mere suspicion but has been hesitant to probe people who are close to him.

The Manila Court issued the warrant against Acierto and the other suspects after a 45-page joint resolution was issued last April 8 by the investigating panel of prosecutors led by DOJ Assistant State Prosecutor Mary Jane Sytat that reportedly found probable cause in the earlier complaint filed by the NBI.

Guban had previously been placed under the witness protection program (WPP) after the congressional hearings on illegal drugs.

A source at the NBI said Guban’s stint at the WPP lapsed last April 17 and agents of the bureau served a warrant for his arrest as soon as he was about to leave his safehouse.

Guban testified during a congressional hearing that Acierto was the one who was giving him orders and asking him to facilitate the release of certain cargoes and shipments, and one of those was the release of the shipment of magnetic lifters allegedly containing the illegal drugs. 

The PNP yesterday welcomed the P10-million bounty put up by the government for any information that would lead to the arrest of Acierto.

According to PNP spokesman Col. Bernard Banac, the reward money is an added boost in the efforts of law enforcement agencies to capture the elusive former police official.

Banac, however, clarified police officers will pursue Acierto with the same vigor even without the bounty.

“With or without the reward, it is the PNP’s mandate to find him and serve the warrant of arrest,” he said. – With Evelyn Macairan, Rey Galupo

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