Seized narcotics as reward for tipsters not PDEA practice: chief

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2023 04:52 PM

Members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) present parcels containing methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu” during a press conference. Basilio Sepe, ABS-CBN News
Members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) present parcels containing methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu” during a press conference. Basilio Sepe, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Wednesday clarified that the supposed scheme of informants seeking portion of seized drugs as "reward" was not a practice within the organization. 

PDEA director general Moro Virgilio Lazo faced the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, which sought an investigation into his revelation during a House hearing last month. 

"I acted in good faith when I brought to light the reprehensible act of tipsters seeking confiscated drugs as a reward but I have never imagined that my sincere intention will be misunderstood... I want to make it clear that their proposals were rejected outright," Lazo explained.

The PDEA chief said he wants to correct the "erroneous impression" that there is a "PDEA policy" involving the handing out of non-monetary incentives to informants.

"To the best of my knowledge, it has never been a prevailing practice in the PDEA reward system," he said.

During a House hearing last month, Lazo revealed that some informants who provide tips for anti-illegal drug operations seek a 30 percent "cut" from the seized drugs as their "reward," alarming lawmakers.

In the Senate hearing Wednesday, Lazo gave a more detailed account of how he found out about the alleged reward scheme.

"Through a closed friend of mine who is a retired PNP officee also, in-approach niya also itong mga informant tapos nag-offer sila what they termed as trabaho or project. So ang offer nila is magbibigay sila ng trabaho sa PDEA and in exchange ang kabayaran nila 30 percent of the seized or confiscated drugs," Lazo said.

He then asked for a meeting with informants.

"Hinarap ko sila at kinuwento nila na 'yun ang kalakaran, to use their words, na pati din daw sa kabila. They were referring to the PNP (Philippine National Police) so outright sinabi ko sa kanila we will not allow that," Lazo told the panel.

Panel chairperson Sen. Bato dela Rosa and Sen. Raffy Tulfo then expressed disappointment after Lazo said he did not ask the informants to serve as whistleblowers and expose the officials perpetrating the scheme. 

"Hindi mo siya tinanong kung pwede syang maging whistleblower kasi baka nilalaro ka lang nya eh... Itong mga asset na to alam naman natin yan nilalaro tayo nito. Mamaya totoo man yan o hindi, meron yang intention bakit sya nagsabi ng ganon... I hold you responsible for your disclosure," Dela Rosa told Lazo.

Lazo vowed to get in touch with the informants. 

Meanwhile, Lazo's predecessor former PDEA chief Wilkins Villanueva questioned the supposed scheme and admitted he was "hurt" by the revelation.

"Masakit yung dinivulge kasi ang haba ng trabaho natin, 20 years ako sa PDEA and never naging kalakal namin yan," he said.

Villanueva explained that during his term, PDEA was not dependent on "walk-in informants."

"Nung nag DG (director general) ako eh structured ang anti-drug ops namin. We are not really dependent on informants. Ang nangyayari kasi sa bago, may mga walk-in informants. During my time I discouraged the use of walk-in informants. Dapat yung anti-drug operations intelligence-based, yung pinaghihirapan ng ahente," Villanueva said.

He explained how difficult it would be to carry out the supposed scheme since the seized drugs are heavily-guarded, from the laboratory to the evidence vault.

"Guarded, every room, everywhere may CCTV. Sa loob ng lab may CCTV din... Papasok na yan sa vault, sa evidence room, yung evidence room may 3 padlock at biometrics," he said.

Sen. Robin Padilla then reminded PDEA and other law enforcement agencies to sustain the "very good" illegal drug campaign of the Duterte administration.

“My only reminder is that the campaign of our beloved (former) President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was very good during his time. Please don't change that. I hope it continues because drugs are not decreasing. In fact, they are increasing,” he said.

Extrajudicial killings committed during the Duterte administration's war on drugs are currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court.


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