Levistes deny ties to Mexican drug cartel

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 26 2013 07:40 PM | Updated as of Dec 27 2013 06:11 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) -- Batangas Vice-Governor Mark Leviste and his father, Conrad Leviste, on Thursday denied knowing that alleged members of a Mexican drug cartel are operating in their property.

In a statement, Mark and Conrad said that they found reports on the almost half a billion pesos worth of illegal drugs found in Lipa City "incorrect and malicious."

"We categorically deny that drugs were found at a 'Leviste Ranch,'" the statement said.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police - Anti-Illegal-Drugs Special Operations Task Force (PNP-AIDSOTF) seized P420 million worth of shabu during a raid at the LPL Ranch in Barangay Inosloban, Lipa, according to authorities.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima said they will consult lawyers regarding the ranch, which allegedly belongs to the clan of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste, who is out on parole for homicide.

The Levistes, however, claimed that the former Batangas governor does not own the property where the illegal drugs were seized.

"If (drugs) were found in a 'Tan-Torres Farm' then they should say so," the statement said.

"Gov. Tony does not own the compound and he should not be dragged into the issue. It's unfair for him and his family most especially he has issues of his own," it added. "We don't want to add to his own problems and the press shouldn't use him or his case just to make an issue a headline or "news worthy".

The Batangas vice-governor's father and the former governor are twin brothers.

The Levistes said they were told by caretakers on Wednesday that the farm of one of their lessees was raided by the police.

"We are not our tenant's keeper. We do not and will never tolerate any and all illegal activities in our developments and properties," they said.

The clan promised to cooperate with police.

The Levistes said LPL Estates is home to several personalities and politicians such as Senator Ralph Recto and Governor Vilma Santos-Recto, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and several cock breeders.

Police, meanwhile, said that aside from the 2 Filipinos and a Filipino-Chinese arrested during the raid, the actual members of the Mexican cartel were not captured by authorities.

"We have previously had reports that the Mexicans are here and... this is the first time we have confirmed that indeed, the Mexicans are already here," police Senior Superintendent Bartolome Tobias said.

Tobias did not say how they knew the Sinaloa cartel was involved

He said a Filipino-American named Gary Torres and two Mexicans known as "Jaime" and "Joey" were being sought in connection with the seized drugs.

President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Herminio Coloma said the government would act promptly against the cartel.

"Of course, the government will seek to arrest these lawbreakers, stop their crimes, and protect the citizenry," he told reporters.

It was not clear why the Mexican cartel would have entered the Philippines.

The national police chief, Director-General Alan Purisima, said the country's strategic location and the difficulty of guarding the archipelago's maritime borders made it easy to infiltrate.

"It is part of our investigation how the cartel was able to penetrate our country. We are still in the process of determining what is the history behind the arrest of these people," Purisima said.

He said Chinese drug syndicates may be colluding with the Mexicans.

A PDEA spokesman, Derrick Carreon, said the entry of the Mexican cartel was based on "intelligence reports" but did not elaborate.

The Mexican embassy declined to comment.

The Sinaloa cartel is reputed to be the largest source of illegal drugs to the United States.

Its main leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001. He is now America's most wanted drug trafficker, as well as being considered by Forbes as the most powerful criminal on the planet.

More than 77,000 people have been killed in Mexico in connection with organized crime since then-president Felipe Calderon launched a nationwide war against the cartels after taking office in 2006. - with reports from Ernie Manio, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog; Agence France-Presse