Iloilo’s ‘shabu queen’ falls in drug buy-bust
Jennifer P. Rendon (The Freeman) - December 17, 2016 - 12:00am

ILOILO CITY, Philippines — After years of allegedly operating undeterred her own illegal drug trade, the so-called shabu queen of Iloilo province finally fell to the police dragnet Thursday afternoon in her hometown of Sara.

Joint elements of  the Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) Provincial Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Group (PAIDSOTG) and the Sara Police Station finally arrested 48-year-old Lea Braga, a resident of Barangay Bacabac in Sara, during a buy-bust operation in the area.

Recovered from her possession were eight sachets of suspected shabu and P1,060 cash, according to Senior Inspector Ronnie Brillo, Sara Police chief, who also said Lea Braga is the number one drug personality in Iloilo province.

Considered as high-value target (HVT) Level 3, Lea Braga has been ranked third in the police priority target of Region 6. As to why she is on top of the IPPO's target list, Brillo said "she gets her supply directly from Munti," referring to the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

Lea Braga was able to establish her Munti connection where her brothers, Ricky and Renante, are presently imprisoned. "Through Ricky and Renante, Lea Braga established a connection with a Chinese drug dealer," Brillo said.

Aside from her brothers, Lea Braga also have cousins serving jail time at the national penitentiary. Brillo said he received information that a jailed Braga stabbed his cousin because of an apparent double-cross in their alleged drug dealings.

Police surveillance operations revealed that Lea Braga goes to Manila twice a month to get her supply. She also have created her own network of drug pushers, who operate in Sara and the neighboring town of Concepcion where most of their alleged customers are construction workers of a coal-fired power plant.

Brillo said police came to know Lea Braga's operation after sensing how she spent money on her gambling 'hobby," of which "she could lose P10,000 to P20,000 a night in a game of tong-its, despite her being jobless."

Lea Braga had been "knocked" by the police during Oplan Tokhang but she did not voluntarily yield. Brillo however said police records showed that Lea Braga, a single mother, has no previous arrest for illegal drugs or any other crime.

The Bragas

On June 15, 2014, IPPO arrested Renante in a buy-bust operation at Bacabac village. Renante and his three cohorts were nabbed for possessing P1.2 million worth of suspected shabu.

On the other hand, Ricky's was the first to hug the headlines after he was accused and convicted in the Bacabac massacre last August 12, 1998 that left 11 persons dead, including a US Peace Corps volunteer and a pregnant woman.

Following Renante's arrest, on July 2014 the police arrested their cousin, Melvin Braga, with Roel de Asis, 28, of Brgy. Aposaga, Sara; and Jhonjie Asada, 20, of Brgy. Zerrudo. Seized from them were 18 sachets of shabu, a digital weighing scale, a .45-caliber pistol with five bullets, a .9mm Ingram machine pistol with three bullets, P1,070 cash and drug paraphernalia. (FREEMAN)

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