Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, May 11, 2009

PDEA agents nab suspect in shabu haul

Drug enforcers have arrested a local Muslim leader who, they said, has information that could lead them to the syndicate behind the biggest ever shabu shipment confiscated in the Philippines.

The 745-kilogram contraband from China, valued at more than P5 billion, was seized at the Subic Freeport in May last year. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the arrest of former Subic investor Anthony Ang for alleged involvement in the shipment but he has remained at large, officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said at the weekend.

PDEA officials identified the suspect in their custody as Ali Omar, 37, an alleged drug trafficker, who was arrested on Friday in his house in Iba town, Zambales province.

Also known by the alias “Philip,” Omar is the president of the Muslim Federation of Zambales, a position he has held in the last nine years, according to the PDEA. The federation has a membership of 12,000.

Interviewed by this reporter at the PDEA headquarters in Quezon City on Saturday, Omar claimed to be instrumental in the electoral victory of many local politicians in Zambales. “Kapag sinuportahan po namin, siguradong manalo man ang kandidato (Once we give our support, for sure the candidate will win),” Omar said in Filipino.

On the day he was arrested, not one politician intervened in his behalf.

Link to ‘big guys’

“The arrest of Omar is significant in a sense that this validates the informal operational and organizational link the agency has been following up since the [recovery] in May last year of more than 740 kilograms of shabu from mainland China,” said Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino, head of the PDEA Special Enforcement Service (SES).

Marcelino said Omar had told the PDEA during interrogation recorded on video that he had a Maranao supplier of shabu in charge of the Marawi area and pointed to the supplier as the link to the “real big guys.”

Omar also claimed that the shabu supplier operated in Manila and was based in Alabang, Muntinlupa.

Omar is singing

“This one (Omar) is talking and we can confidently say that we are climbing up the ladder of this network, [toward] those who are really higher and the highest on the ladder,” Marcelino said.

“We have reason to believe that the syndicates in Zambales and those in Marawi are connected to the real deal, the financiers and operators of shipment of shabu [who are] connected to the group of Anton Ang,” Marcelino added.

The PDEA’s last information about Ang is he is now in mainland China. “Soon, very soon,” Marcelino said, when asked when they would get Ang.

Drugs and guns

Recovered during Friday’s raid—witnessed by barangay (village) officials and State Prosecutor Olivia V. Non—were one big, sealed transparent plastic bag containing a crystalline substance later tested to be shabu and weighing approximately 1 kg, assorted drug paraphernalia, one Isuzu Sportivo with plate No. ZTE-913, P43,600 in cash, one .22 cal. rifle, assorted ammunition, five cellular phones, one digital camera, one MP4, and three wallets with pictures and identification cards.

Also recovered from Omar’s vehicle was a loaded .45 cal. Taurus semiautomatic pistol which Omar said was his, claiming he was a military agent.

Protection network

PDEA agents say the arrest of Omar has provided leads to the extent of the network of protection that illegal syndicates enjoy in the province.

It also validates intelligence information that Zambales now ranks among the top consumers of illegal drugs, specifically methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, according to Marcelino, who led Friday’s operation with other agents from the PDEA’s Complaint and Reaction Unit headed by Maj. Valentino Lopez.

The raid on Omar’s house was done with a search warrant issued by Executive Judge Cielito N. Mindaro-Grulla of the National Capital Judicial Region, Regional Trial Court Branch 29.

Extensive operation

During questioning, Omar revealed that his operation extended to many parts of Zambales, including the town of Subic.

Marcelino said the PDEA was also now focusing its attention on Zambales because of the alleged link between the drug trafficking syndicates there and syndicates in the Lanao provinces, particularly Marawi City.

Omar’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs was discovered following raids on March 13 on three drug dens in Barangay Calapacuan in Subic, where three local drug traffickers were arrested.

“Omar’s name came up and from then on, we conducted surveillance operations on his illegal drug dealings,” Marcelino said.

Gunrunning activities

During the surveillance, several men were seen in groups going in and out of Omar’s house, carrying high-powered firearms.

“We have strong evidence to support the information that he is also involved in gunrunning,” Marcelino said, adding the reason that the PDEA was in full force during the raid was because they were expecting resistance from Omar’s group.

The PDEA agents also found that Omar used vehicles allegedly without any records at the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

--By.Arlyn dela Cruz - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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