RDEU team in theft yarn stays put

By: Jennifer P. Rendon

The commander of the PNP Regional Drug Enforcement Unit 6 (RDEU-6) will not relieve personnel accused of stealing valuables from a grade school teacher during a police anti-narcotics operations.

Well, at least not yet, Police Colonel Harold Tuzon, Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 deputy regional director for operations and concurrent RDEU commander, said Thursday.

“We need to look into the merits of the complaints. If circumstances would merit their relief, then we would,” he said.

Tuzon said Police Lieutenant Colonel Pablito Asmod, chief of the PNP Regional Investigation and Detective Management Office (RIDMD), was directed to formally conduct an investigation on the RDEU team led by Police Lieutenant Jersey Besas.

The complainant, a certain Arlene Bolivar Braga of City Proper district (not Jaro as earlier reported), Iloilo City already went to Asmod’s office.

She left her contact information “but when the RIDMD called her up, she told them, she’s just waiting for her private legal counsel,” Tuzon said.

Amid complaints that Besas was aloof and did not entertain their calls, Tuzon said he had long told him to be available for interviews except when he is in operations.

But Besas continued to make himself scarce, even to his superiors.

Tuzon said he will order Besas to report to Police Colonel Marlon Tayaba, PRO-6 chief of staff, to shed light on the complaint against their operation.

Tuzon said Besas has yet to explain himself although he earlier denied accusations that they took valuables unrelated to their anti-narcotics operation that happened Dec. 4, 2019.

Earlier, Tuzon also urged other individuals who claimed to have been victims of “hulidap” allegedly committed by RDEU to inform them.

“It doesn’t matter if it happened long before the time of Lt. Besas. Our aim here is to cleanse our ranks of misfits,” he said.

Tuzon also assured the public there will be no whitewash in the investigation.

The latest controversy hounding RDEU operatives involved a grade school teacher.

The complainant was not the anti-drugs operation’s target but her neighbor, Romeo Tribunal.

Braga alleged that RDEU personnel went to her house and scoured the area.

At that time, Braga was not around but her 9-year-old child and a 19-year-old relative were inside the house.

After the team left, a wristwatch, a jewelry box containing still undetermined items, and the child’s piggy bank went missing.

Almost a year ago, seven RDEU members were relieved from their post following the controversial raid on the house of the relatives of slain Western Visayas drug lord Melvin Odicta, Sr.

The seven police officers were with members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency 6 (PDEA-6) when the latter led the anti-drug raid at Regalados’ abode at Barangay Sambag, Jaro, Iloilo City on Dec. 13.

The relief came after the Regalado matriarch accused the raiding team of stealing their valuables.

CCTV footages taken inside the house of couple Arnulfo and Nilda Regalado claimed they lost jewelries and pricey personal belongings.

At around 11:30 a.m. of Dec. 19, 2018, Candelaria Regalado reported to Jaro Police Station that close to P2.5 million worth of valuables went missing.

She later filed administrative and criminal charges against eight members of PDEA-6 and RDEU-6.

Following the accusations, retired Police Brigadier General John Bulalacao, then Western Visayas police chief, ordered their relief claiming that police units, such as RDEU, should be clean and credible.

During the operation, PDEA found itself in hot water for failure to file an inquest case claiming its printer and photocopying machine got broken.

Inquest is a proceeding done by prosecutors when the person was arrested without a warrant. A warrantless arrest is allowed under conditions set by the rules of criminal procedure – when the person commits the crime in the presence of the officer, or when there is probable cause to believe a crime has just been committed, or if it is a prisoner escaping from jail, or if the offense is a continuing offense like rebellion.

Inquest proceedings are also used to determine if there is probable cause to indict the person.

PDEA released the four suspects and later file a case against them for Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002).

The incident has led to the relief of several PDEA personnel, including its regional director Emerson Margate.

(Photo Courtesy of Reuters)