MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — Former Davao City information officer Jefry Tupas and his companions were allegedly still present when authorities raided a beach party in Davao de Oro over the weekend but were allowed to leave, some of those nabbed from the operation told a digital news outfit.
A Newsline Philippines report on Tuesday showed an interview it did with men supposedly among those apprehended during the Nov. 6 operation, while in detention at the National Bureau of Investigation office in Davao City.
"Ang 'di namo madawat kay una, nganong kami lang nabilin?" one of the detainees could be heard as saying.
(We can't accept the fact that we were the only ones arrested.)
"Wala mi mag-expect nga gipatakas na diay sila," another one said.
(We did not expect they would let them escape.)
Tupas confirmed attending the party at a resort in Mabini town, but said he left early as he had work the next day.
“I was there. I left early with my boyfriend and another friend," he said in a statement on Tuesday, the same day Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio announced he had been terminated from the city government following the incident.
In her statement, Duterte-Carpio said Tupas "was involved" in the drug raid, and the details of which "are known only to the PDEA officers in Davao de Oro" and him.
The operation, launched by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, NBI, and local police, resulted in the apprehension of 17 people and the confiscation of around P1.5 million worth of party and illegal drugs, according to the PDEA.
During the raid, the operatives first looked for Tupas, the detainees told Newsline Philippines, adding there were around 50 guests at the party.
They were then told to calm down, while Tupas and her companions were separated from the group, they said.
The operatives had a “logbook-like” material with a list of names which they individually read aloud, a detainee recalled.
“Ang ingon sa amoa sa PDEA, relax lang mo Sir kay visitor lang mo, Sir. Ang gipanawag, mao ang main targets. Mao gibilin mi sa field, sila gilahi sila," a detainee said.
(The PDEA personnel told us, "Just relax, Sir; you're only visitors here. Those who are being called are the main targets." So we were left on the field, and the others were separated.)
One detainee said he overheard Tupas saying, "Sir, staff ko ni Inday Sara. Unsa ni Sir? (Sir, I'm a staff of Inday Sara. What is this about Sir?)"
"Mao to, gikuha siya pasulod.” (That's why he was brought inside.)
"Daghan nakakita Ma'am. Daghan kayo nakakita po.” (Many people saw that).
Tupas has deactivated his social media accounts and cannot be reached through his mobile phone. He has not issued any statement since Tuesday.
The detainees also claimed that the operatives confiscated several items from Tupas and his companions, which were placed in front of those apprehended for inventory as PDEA agents took pictures.
In the same Newsline Philippines report, PDEA Region 11 Director Aileen Lovitos said her office stands by its action to file charges only against the 17 people.
Asked why Tupas was not on the list of the agency, Lovitos said: "We stick (with) our statement that we filed drug cases against the 17 drug personalities. And these 17 personalities are already facing charges in the (Prosecutor's) office. Kana ang amoang statement, and we will stand by it."
(That is our statement.)
According to her, 14 of the 17 were found positive for use of illegal drugs, such as shabu and marijuana, and also ecstasy, based on their urine test results.
In an interview on ANC on Wednesday, Lovitos was asked to comment on the NewsLine Philippines report about Tupas and others allegedly being allowed to leave during the raid.
She replied: "Precisely, this is a planned operation. We know our targets in the anti-drug operation. When you say it’s a buy-bust operation, that is a planned operation. So, 'pag ganiyan po, alam ng operatives kung sino po 'yung kanilang subject of the operation.”
She added, “That’s the stand of PDEA, that indeed we have 17 drug personalities, which are subject of our anti-drug operation.”
PDEA chief Wilkins Villanueva, in a Radyo Pilipinas program carried on the Barangay PDEA Facebook page, said there was no "Jefry Tupas" on the list of the operation's targets.
He quoted Tupas' statement about attending the private beach party with his boyfriend but leaving before the buy-bust operation was carried out.
"So, in short, hindi siya kasama sa mga hinuli during buy-bust operation na 'yun," Villanueva said.
(So, in short, he is not among those arrested during that buy-bust operation.)
Asked about speculations that Tupas may have been allowed to escape because of his connection with Duterte-Carpio, Villanueva responded by saying that the event was a "private, invite-only, and no-tag along" party, which the PDEA normally finds hard to penetrate.
"Naging resourceful lang yung mga operatiba natin na maka-gain tayo ng access sa naturang party, through the use of multiple informants. Nag-relax yung grupo ni Revsan kasi of course, nasa Davao de Oro, andun yan sa dulo ng Davao, because they thought na mga bobo ang operatiba ng PDEA," Villanueva said, referring to the main target of the operation.
(Our operatives were just resourceful, through the use of multiple informants, that's why they gained access to the party. And the group of Revsan must have relaxed a bit in accepting guests because they were already in Davao de Oro which is in the farthest part of Davao region, and because they thought PDEA operatives are dumb.)
"This is the first time na nagkaroon ng successful buy-bust operation sa isang private rave party. And our agents should be congratulated for successfully doing it," he added.
(This is the first time that we had a successful buy-bust operation in a private rave party.)
The PDEA chief said there are operational details that he will no longer share because these are reserved for the court to appreciate.
He also said the Duterte family does not meddle in anti-drug operations, based on his experience.
President Rodrigo Duterte, a longtime former mayor of Davao City and the father of Duterte-Carpio, has been waging a controversial drug war since coming to power in 2016, with thousands of people getting killed prompting the International Criminal Court prosecutor's office to launch a probe for possible crime against humanity of murder.
- with reports from Chrislen Bulosan and Francis Magbanua