RDEU team leader denies theft yarn

By: Jennifer P. Rendon

The team leader of the Regional Drug Enforcement Unit (RDEU), Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6)’s anti-drugs group, denied accusations that they took valuables unrelated to an anti-narcotics operation in Jaro, Iloilo City last week.

Police Colonel Harold Tuzon, PRO-6 deputy regional director for operations and concurrent RDEU commander, said Police Lieutenant Jersey Besas denied the allegations against their team.

But Tuzon said Besas’ mere denial will not exonerate him and his other team members from the investigation.

The Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division (RIDMD) has started its probe relative to the complaint of Arlene Bolivar Braga.

Tuzon said Braga personally lodged her complaint.

“I told the investigators to communicate with her. Apparently, she hired the services of a private lawyer,” he said.

However, Tuzon said they will still exhaust all means to get Braga’s statement to corroborate the complaint against the concerned RDEU personnel.

He also urged other individuals who claimed to have been victims of “hulidap” allegedly committed by RDEU to surface and file complaints.

“It doesn’t matter if it happens 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 would be no whitewash in the conduct of 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.

According to reports, the operation against Tribunal turned out negative.

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.