THEY helped smash some of the country’s biggest shabu laboratories and sent to jail many Chinese drug lords since their stint with the now defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force up to present time but they now face the biggest challenge of their lives: prove they are heroes and not villains in the drug war.
They are former members of the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force which was later renamed PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, the unit ordered abolished by former PNP chief now retired General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa in the aftermath of the involvement of three of its men in the infamous Jee Ick Yoo kidnapping-murder case in October 2016 and, later resurrected as the PNP Drug Enforcement Group.
These policemen are led by Senior Superintendent Eduardo P. Acierto Jr., a bemedalled police official from Philippine Military Academy Class of 1989, the PMA Class whose members include 17 who joined the PNP in 1991, seven of them now Police Chief Superintendents, a rank equivalent to a Brigadier General in the Armed Forces.
Acierto may not get his cherished dream of becoming a star-rank police official after he got embroiled in the 2011 controversial sale of over 1,000 AK-47 assault rifles to the New People’s Army during the previous Aquino administration and was ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman.
He will be marking his 55th birthday this coming December and unless he squeezes himself out of trouble and gets all the clearances he needs, he will not get his star-rank.
PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde said six police officers and men were linked to illegal drug activities following the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-Bureau of Customs raid last month and have been relieved of their posts and are undergoing investigation.
Journal Group sources said that three of the six are from the PNP-DEG who were ordered assigned to Central Luzon and Southern Mindanao respectively. Gen. Albayalde said that if enough evidence is found against the group, they will face summary hearing procedures.
One of the accused was emotional when he talked with the Journal Group over the phone. He denied the charges that they have conducted “scripted” police anti-narcotics operations which got them medals and commendations. The policeman was among the officers involved in a joint PDEA-PNP operation in Davao City which led to the discovery of a big shabu factory and the killing of seven Chinese drug manufacturers during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. He said that they got solid help from then Davao City Mayor, now President Rodrigo Duterte who was very angry when he was informed of the existence of the drug manufacturing facility in his city. The rest is history.
“I swear to God, to my family that our successful anti-drug raids and buy-bust operations were all the result of an honest-to-goodness surveillance, all solid police work and nothing else. Now, they are trying to pin us down on trumped-up charges. This is absurd,” the officer said in the vernacular.
Acierto used to be a deputy director of the PNP-AIDG then headed by Ferro before it was ordered abolished by Dela Rosa. He went on to become the deputy director of the PNP-DEG when it was first headed by Chief Supt Graciano J. Mijares of PMA Class 1988, then by Chief Supt. Joseph C. Adnol of PNP Academy Class 1985 and later by his classmate, Chief Supt. Albert Ignatius D. Ferro.
Another accused is retired Police Supt. Ismael G. Fajardo Jr., a veteran anti-narcotics officer who was recruited into the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency by its former head, retired Gen. Arturo G. Cacdac Jr. months before he officially retired from the police force.
Fajardo, a no-nonsense sleuth produced some of the biggest PDEA accomplishments when it was headed by Cacdac and even worked with current PDEA chief Director General Aaron N. Aquino in dismantling a major clandestine drug laboratory in Arayat, Pampanga when Aquino was still the Police Regional Office 3 director in Central Luzon.
Fajardo would be promoted by Aquino as PDEA Deputy Director General for Administration—the latter was a former PDEA National Capital Region Office chief—until Aquino ordered his relief last month in the aftermath of a Senate investigation during which a Customs agent linked them to the smuggling of billions of pesos worth of shabu, all charges vehemently denied by the accused policemen and PDEA officers.
As things have been fast turning up, it now appears that the charges and counter-charges were all triggered by rifts between some of the concerned officers, mostly over professional differences, non-coordination and perceived effort by one to keep their ongoing operations a secret to the other.
For sure, the only persons laughing at present are the drug lords and their ilk who remain out there in the streets enjoying the fruits of their crime.