Estancia drug stings net P2.89M worth of ‘crystal meth’

By Jennifer P. Rendon

Close to P3 million worth of suspected shabu was confiscated during two separate anti-drug operations in Estancia, Iloilo, resulting in the arrest of four individuals.

The suspects, identified as Lester Malata, 32, Joeffry Malata, 45, and Jackie Luo Bucala, 43, all from Barangay Bayuyan, along with Salmar Lachica, 31, of Barangay Bulaquena, were nabbed in operations staged nine hours apart.

Lester, Joeffry, and Lachica were caught at 10:58 p.m. on April 9 in Bulaqueña village during a buy-bust operation.

The trio was apprehended by the Regional Police Drug Enforcement Unit 6 (RPDEU-6), Estancia Municipal Police Station personnel, the Iloilo Police Provincial Office-Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit (IPPO-PDEU), and the 2nd Iloilo Provincial Mobile Force after they sold a sachet of suspected shabu for P12,000.

In the aftermath of their arrest, 28 plastic sachets of suspected shabu and various non-drug items were recovered.

The narcotics weighed approximately 225 grams with an estimated value of P1,530,000. Lester, who was the primary target of the sting, is considered a high-value individual, while Joeffry and Lachica are categorized as street-level pushers.

In a subsequent operation, Bucala, a relative and neighbor of the Malatas, was apprehended at around 8:20 a.m. on April 10 in Barangay Lumbia, Estancia.

The IPPO-PDEU, in collaboration with Estancia MPS, the 2nd IPMFC, and the Iloilo Maritime Police Station, seized from Bucala a sachet of suspected shabu in exchange for P1,000, alongside 11 additional sachets and non-drug items upon his arrest.

These drugs had an aggregate weight of around 200 grams and a standard price of P1,360,000.

Major Ahlie Estember, chief of the IPPO-PDEU, stated that while the operations were separate, there is a connection between the four suspects.

“They apparently sourced their drugs from the same supplier,” he revealed without providing additional details.

Estember further noted that the arrest of Lester had been a long-term objective for the RPDEU-6, while the IPPO-PDEU had already been focusing on Bucala.

The four detainees are currently held and will face charges under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Republic Act 9165.