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Soldiers arrested for drugs to be given due process

Michael Vencynth H. Braga (The Freeman) - March 1, 2017 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Central Command (CentCom) cannot impose any actions yet against the three members of the Philippine Army who were arrested in an anti-crime operation of the police last Saturday as they still have to undergo due process.

But the CentCom has assured that they will not tolerate the wrongdoing of any of its members should they be found guilty.

First Lieutenant Roger Abitria Jr., CentCom acting spokesperson, said that for the meantime, the AFP will protect their members’ right to due process while guilt has not been determined yet.

“I am just being fair to them (three corporals), giving them the benefit of the doubt. We cannot discount the fact that… they may be using drugs. But we are not persecuting. Let us wait for the official results of this case… We are not protecting them. We are also not unduly persecuting them. We will help undergo the due process,” he said.

He said the corporals may face dismissal from service if found guilty.

“Those guys will be facing the full force of the law. But we will be aiding them to be able to go through the process of the law without any impediment,” he added.

He made it clear that the three members of the Philippine Army, who hail from Davao City, are not under the direct supervision of CentCom and that they are students of an army group undergoing training at Camp Lapu-Lapu.

Police Senior Inspector Elisandro Quijano, deputy chief of Guadalupe Police Station, earlier said a police team had been conducting a patrol against illegal gambling at Sitio Yoreco in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City when the arrest took place.

He said the operation stemmed from the information the police received from a concerned citizen about an ongoing head-or-tails game, locally known as “hantak,” which is reportedly rampant in the area.

Upon noticing the police, a group of men immediately scampered away, some of whom reportedly went inside a makeshift house.

Police saw inside the house some of the men, including the three suspects, who they later learned were members of the Philippine Army.

A disposable lighter, improvised-hand made tube, and a strip of tin foil were reportedly recovered from each of the suspects when frisked after the arrest.

The AFP was earlier tapped by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to assist in the anti-illegal drug crackdown.

But Abitria believes that the recent incident involving the corporals, which he considered as an “isolated case,” will not affect the plan of the AFP to help the government’s efforts against illegal drugs.

He noted that the organization has been conducting internal cleansing in their hierarchy even before the present administration implemented their intensified anti-illegal drugs campaign.

“We are doing our effort to keep our ranks clean. Once a year, nagko-conduct kami ng random drug test sa aming personnel,” he said.

He disclosed that there were also AFP members who were found positive for illegal drugs and were dismissed from service.

“Masaya kami kasi may nahuhuli din… I am confident that this isolated case (arrest of three corporals) will not affect our credibility and our integrity as an organization because in our organization, we despise who use illegal drugs in any form,” he added. (FREEMAN)

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