PDEA-7 sues barangay execs over ‘failure’ to assist in drug ops
(The Freeman) - November 19, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Officials of Barangay Ermita, Cebu City are facing four administrative and criminal complaints for allegedly failing to lend assistance during an anti-drug operation last November 6 that yielded at least P800, 000 worth of shabu.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-7 Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz filed the complaints yesterday before the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas for alleged violation of Article 23 of the Revised Penal Code, gross misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Impleaded in the complaints were Barangay captain Felicisimo Rupinta, and barangay council members Marky Rizaldy Miral, Antonieto Flores, Ryan Jay Rosas, Alio Tamundo, Domingo Ando, Maria Buanghog, and Wilbert Flores.

Ruiz said the officials violated several laws when they refused to cooperate by failing to witness the physical inventory of the seized items during the operation.

“In the fight against illegal drugs, each and every one must contribute. Barangay officials should be in the frontline of our anti-drug campaign,” Ruiz told reporters.

He said the complaints he filed would serve as warning to the government officials who are not serious in the war against illegal drugs.

“Do your job sincerely. Support us not only by acting as witnesses during legitimate police operation but also by providing us information about suspected drug personalities,” he said, referring to the barangay officials.

The complaint stemmed from the implementation of a search warrant against Richard Cañete and Josephine Cuyno at Sitio Bato in Ermita.

In his affidavit, Ruiz said the team caught and arrested Cañete in a drug den along with other 13 drug users and visitors.

Cuyno, who allegedly maintained the drug den, was not present when the warrant was served.

After the implementation of the warrant, the operatives then proceeded to the Ermita barangay hall to coordinate with the barangay tanods. The team also asked for the presence of Rupinta or any of the council members to witness the physical search and inventory to be conducted.

The law requires the presence and signature of any elected official during the inventory of the seized evidence.

Ruiz said the team waited for almost two hours for Rupinta or any of his barangay councilors and called them over the phone but to no avail.

Recounting an incident where one of the PDEA operatives was shot while conducting an anti-illegal operation in 2011 in the same area, Ruiz said the PDEA personnel eventually pulled out from the area due to security risk.

“The failure of the (barangay officials) to witness the physical inventory of the seized and confiscated items from the den maintained by Richard Cañete and Josephine Cuyno, despite demand, from the elements of PDEA-7 raiding team resulted to the serious damage to the interest of the public and the prosecution of the case,” he stated in his complaint.

Sought for comment, Rupinta denied allegations and called PDEA officials liars.

He told reporters that it was even the PDEA that failed to coordinate with them.

He noted that PDEA officials used to coordinate with local officials in the last five anti-drug operations, but it was only on that day when the agency failed to approach them.

He added that barangay workers even offered to help but were allegedly rejected by PDEA personnel.

Despite the complaints, Rupinta said the barangay will still continue to support the anti-drug effort of PDEA and other law enforcement agencies.

At the Cebu City Hall, Mayor Tomas Osmeña opted not to issue any statement on the complaints PDEA-7 filed against Rupinta and the other Ermita barangay officials, saying he did not know the details.

He said he cannot say that barangay officials do not know the illegal activities happening within their jurisdiction considering that the main duty of officials is to look out and observe their areas of responsibilities.

With this, the mayor said, barangay officials, especially the village chief, should be made accountable for tolerating such illegal acts in their areas.

Osmeña reiterated what he said earlier that there are many officials who are protecting illegal activities in their respective barangays.

Meanwhile,  Department of the Interior and Local Government-7 Director Rene Burdeos cautioned other local government units to reassess their priorities, as his office also keeps track of the performance of officials in addressing the drug problem in their respective places.

He said DILG-7 would back PDEA-7 in filing complaints against officials who would not cooperate, as they would be deemed to have neglected their duty.

PDEA7 is the lead anti-drug law enforcement agency in the country responsible for preventing, investigating and combating any dangerous or illegal substance, controlled precursor and essential chemicals.

“If there is evidence, then we support PDEA-7 on their move in filing complaints. If there are really local officials that will not cooperate, then it is the right of PDEA-7 to file charges,” said Burdeos.

He also said that they are likewise monitoring the performance of anti-drug abuse councils of barangays, cities, municipalities, and provinces.

“We (DILG executives) are calling again their (local government officials) attention to look into their mandated functions,” he said. — Michael Vencynth H. Braga, May B. Miasco, Odessa O. Leyson (FREEMAN)

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