MANILA - More victims of the "tanim-droga" scheme surfaced in Mabalacat, Pampanga on Thursday, claiming police operatives planted illegal drugs as evidence against them.
The complainants came out just as the Department of Justice initiated an investigation into the arrest of four senior citizens in November, where Manila police officers purportedly planted evidence.
Three were released Thursday while one died last month in custody.
"Michael," among the victims who requested anonymity, accused Mabalacat Police Drug Enforcement Unit head Inspector Melvin Manalang Florida Jr., of threatening to kill him.
"Tinatakot pa po ako, sabi nila papatayin nila ako tapos itatapon na lang, pagdating sa Mabalacat," the 27-year-old shared.
"Inakyat muna ako sa second floor ng police station, kinuha ang pangalan namin. Ako mag-isang hinuli pero sinama ako sa ibang tao" he added.
Michael claimed he was arrested in front of their house while on his way to buy medicine for his sick child. He said men in civilian clothes, who disembarked from 2 unmarked vehicles, arrested him.
Michael said he was brought to the Mabalacat Police Station and was put to jail. During the booking process, he recalled, the police brought out illegal drugs that were allegedly in his possession.
He was charged along with other suspects, who he claims he did not know personally. The court soon dropped the charges several arrested suspects.
"Sabi po ni Capt. Florida sa 'kin nung ini-interview kami, kada mahuhúli niya, kapag siya daw napuno, papatayin na lang niya. Sasabihin na lang niya nanlaban kahit hindi naman" he said.
MABALACAT COPS DENY ACCUSATIONS
Florida denied Michael's accusations, saying he tested positive for illegal drugs at the PNP Crime Laboratory in Region 3 as attested by a certified document.
Florida said he was willing to undergo a lie detector test, and even dared the complainant to to do the same to see who among them is lying.
"Nagbebenta po siya at ni-reveal niya ang source niya na from Manila," Florida said, "I'm challenging him kung sino nagsasabi ng totoo, I'm challenging him of lie detector test,"he said.
He added that "Michael" even tried to negotiate for his arrest. "Nag-o-offer pa, sabi ko, 'hindi, sa korte natin ito pag uusapan,'" he said.
Florida also denied that he threatened to kill "Michael".
"Ito'y mga kathang-isip po nila. Kasi kung makikita niyo sa operations namin punong-puno lagi ang jail namin. Kung nasa katinuan ka, papatayin mo ba 'yung mga taong 'yan?," he said.
Supt. Juritz Baldovi Rara, Mabalacat's chief of police, said they are actually bewildered why the RTC dismissed the case.
"Iyon pong anim na nahuli, itoy kino-confirm ng city prosecutor, nang dumating sa husgado hindi pa nakarating sa arraignment, yung judge dinismiss na. Hindi namin alam bakit dinismiss," Rara added.
Rara noted that Mabalacat Police has been recognized as the best performing police station on the administration's anti-drug campaign in Pampanga, with 378 arrests in more than 170 police operations.
MORE 'TANIM-DROGA' VICTIMS
Group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said there were about 10 more "tanim-droga" victims who have requested for their help but refuse to go public for the meantime due to security reasons.
"Nagtataka kami húli sila nang húli pero ang dami pa ring droga. Tapos itong walang droga tataniman mo ng droga" said Pyra Lucas, VACC coordinator in Pampanga.
"Ito ba'y para lang may masabing accomplishment? Kung maganda intel[ligence information] nila bakit hindi yung pasimuno ng droga ang hulihin" she added.
Senior Supt. Ronaldo Llanera, Region 3 Deputy Director for Operations, said they do not tolerate police scalawags among their ranks and vowed to investigate the matter.
"Kung may allegation na ganito hinihingi namin sa mga biktima na panindigan nila kung ano'ng nangyari, huwag sila matakot, walang cover-up na mangyayari dito," Llanera said.
"Kung mapapatunayan, kung ano ang nararapat na sanction ay maipapataw po sa kanila" he added.
Engr. Wilhelmo Galura, a city engineer of Bacolor, Pampanga, earlier sought help from Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa after he was allegedly victimized by the same scheme.
Llanera said they already relieved 4 policemen allegedly involved in the scheme, including top station officials.
The suspects were Chief Inspector Phillip Pineda, team leader of the Bacolor Drug Enforcement Unit, PO2 Rethmel Santos and PO2 Mark Zeson Dela Torre who were part of the arresting team, and Chief Inspector Sonia Alvarez, Chief of Police of Bacolor.
Llanera said these policemen were relieved only for purposes of investigation and will be under the custody of the Administrative Holding Center of the Pampanga provincial headquarters for the meantime.