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Drilon was the protector of drug lords in Iloilo

Until now, President Duterte hasn’t fathomed the real picture of illegal drugs in Iloilo City. He has blamed dismissed City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog for the rise of drug lords and their grip on the local community before he came to power. But the truth is that Mabilog was only a pawn. He was never the political boss of Iloilo City. He took orders from Senator Franklin Drilon.

But isn’t it strange that despite the massive reportage and media commentaries on the illegal drugs problem in Iloilo City, Drilon never ever said anything about it? He reads my every blog and Facebook post, and there is no denying he knew about how bad the illegal drugs problem had grown during the years 2010-2016. In fact, I sent him an email sometime in 2012 beseeching him to do something about it. And when the late Melvin “Boyet” Odicta tried to storm into the premises of Aksyon Radyo Iloilo on November 19,2015, Drilon squelched the calls for a Senate investigation into the incident, saying it was a minor police matter.

Drilon was not just the political kingpin of Iloilo at the time. All the national government agencies, including the PNP, PDEA and NBI, bowed before him like a demi-god. Only those who received his blessings were given assignments as Regional Directors in Western Visayas, which has Iloilo City as the regional center. Despite such power that he wielded, Drilon never issued orders for the police to crack down on the drug syndicates. What he did was show a fondness for Barangay Monica-Blumentritt Punong Barangay Keith “Dabing” Espinosa, wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, a top lieutenant of the Odicta syndicate.

Kap dabing with drilon

VIP treatment palagi si Kap Dabing Espinosa na asawa ni Jing Jing Espinosa sa mga okasyon ni Drilon.

Drilon with Kap Dabing

And he was always quick to downplay the magnitude of the problem. Not once had he chastised Mabilog, his cousin and protege, about the growth of the syndicates. In short, it was Drilon who gave protection to the syndicates. And it’s time President Duterte took him to task for this crime against the nation.

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Smoking gun vs EJK?

For so long, the alleged involvement of the government in the killings of suspected drug personalities have remained allegations. There was never any concrete evidence that would back up that claim.

But that might now change with the botched ambush of an Iloilo City policeman who is allegedly an active pusher of shabu last Tuesday afternoon.

PO1 Dorben Acap was driving home after his regular tour of duty ended at 4 p.m. on June 26 when gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire at him at close range. Luckily, Acap had sensed something was going to happen and ducked inside his car as a hail of bullets smashed into it.

He was hit in the left arm. He managed to stop his car in the middle of the road. His attackers stopped their motorcycle about 5 meters away, apparently preparing to finish him off.

Acap, who is left-handed, quickly got his firearm and took aim with his right hand. He fired seven rounds at his attackers who could not see him because of the heavy tint on his windshield. He saw one of his attackers fall to the ground, wounded.

The driver of the motorcycle helped his wounded companion get up from the pavement, got him to sit on the bike and fled.

That wounded gunman was later identified as PO2 Melvin Mocoro, who was last known to be assigned in the ARMM Regional Mobile Battalion of the Philippine National Police. He was supposedly on sick leave from his unit.

Mocoro was hit in the chest and leg when Acap returned fire. He was taken to the Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao, Iloilo City for treatment. At first, police investigators told media Mocoro was wounded in a gunfight in Pakiad, Oton. He was taken to the hospital by a tricycle driver who was stopped by his companion near the Circumferential Road near Mandurriao.

However, Acap, without hesitation, identified Mocoro as the gunman he had hit in the exchange of gunfire when policemen from the Arevalo police station where the ambush took place showed him his picture. Mocoro wasn’t wearing a helmet when the shooting happened, and Acap said he got a good look at him when he fired back.

“It’s definitely him,” Acap said, adding that as a guard assigned to the gate of Camp Delgado, he frequently saw Mocoro get in and out of the regional PNP headquarters in Fort San Pedro. “I didn’t know his name, but I know him to be a policeman.”

Mocoro was placed under hospital arrest by the Arevalo PNP following this positive identification made by Acap.

It’s not known who was the other gunman who was driving the motorcycle, but this identification of Mocoro suddenly gave a face and name to the apparent rub-out activities targetting drug personalities.

On June 24, masked gunmen barged into the cottage occupied by Remia Prevendido-Gregori, barangay captain of Bakhaw, Mandurriao and peppered her with bullets. She died on the spot along with a female helper who was nearby. Her husband, Bonifacio Gregori Sr., was wounded. Mrs. Gregori was the sister of slain drug group leader Richard Prevendido.

The following morning, uniformed policemen stormed several homes owned by the Odict family and their known associates in Tanza Esperanza armed with search warrants for loose firearms. Andrew Altas, a brother in law of Melvin “Dragon” Odicta who was also gunned down in August 2016, was killed after he allegedly fired at the troops, forcing them to return fire. Noel “Nene” Odicta, whose third and last term as barangay captain ends June 30, was arrested and charged for allegedly keeping an unlicensed cal. 45 pistol and a hand grenade in his house.

Then came the ambush on Acap on Tuesday afternoon.

The PDEA and police said Acap was considered a high value target for actively peddling shabu in Iloilo City and southern towns of Iloilo province.

Acap was demoted two years ago after he was caught being in a house raided by the PDEA where illegal drugs were being sold.

Acap has denied his involvement in illegal drugs.

This series of violent attacks on drug personalities has already caused panic and fear among other suspected drug personalities. One of them is Keith “Dabing” Espinosa, wife of alleged Odicta drug group lieutenant Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa, Jr. She is now believed to be in hiding even while her supporters hold prayer vigils every night outside her residence to stop any police raid.

Mocoro remains under hospital arrest. The City Prosecutor’s Office conducted an inquest into the frustrated murder charges filed by police against him at his hospital bedside. He remains tight-lipped about the whole episode and refused to answer questions from police investigators.

The PNP Regional Office No. 6 has also issued a statement that Mocorro could not be linked to the murder of Gregori in San Joaquin last June 24. The police is apparently trying to connect her murder to rivalries between drug groups in the city.

But there is growing evidence now that Mocorro was one of the gunmen who tried to kill Acap, and suspicion is building up as well he could have been part of the group that killed Gregori.

He could be the missing link that would finally establish the involvement of the government, or at least of the police, in the spate of extra judicial killings involving drug personalities in the country.

Armed to the teeth

Back when drug lords were still demi-gods in Iloilo City, pictures of goons under their payroll were often posted on social media to boast about their power and closeness to political leaders.

barangay-monica-boys

Iloilo narco politicians, cops, now on the iron sights of the PNP?

All of a sudden, barangay captains in Iloilo City who have been linked to illegal drugs are fearing for their lives. That’s because one of them, Bakhaw punong barangay Remia Prevendido-Gregori, was shot dead in cold blood at a beach resort she owns in San Joaquin, Iloilo last June 24.

The following morning, police raided several homes in barangay Tanza Esperanza, including that of outgoing barangay captain Noel “Nene” Odicta. The barangay captain is the younger brother of Melvin “Boyet” Odicta, also known as “Dragon”, who was killed along with his wife, Meriam, in August 2016. Kapitan Nene was arrested after the police reportedly recovered a hand grenade and a cal. 45 pistol in the premises of his house. But his brother-in-law, Andrew Altas, was shot dead by the police after he allegedly fired at the lead elements of the SWAT who barged into his home.

Then, on Tuesday afternoon, June 26, a policeman driving home from work was ambushed by two gunmen riding a motorcycle in Barangay Dulonan, Arevalo District. Luckily, PO1 Dorben Acap was not fatally hit in the first burst of gunfire and managed to draw his 9mm pistol and return fire. As witnesses described it, it was almost like watching a movie, except that the bullets that flew thick that afternoon were real. Firing under the cover of his car, Acap managed to hit one of the gunmen, who fell to the ground. This forced his companion to help him get back on his feet and board the motorcycle to flee.

Shortly after the incident, a wounded policeman was taken aboard a tricycle to the Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao. PO3 Melvin Mocoro was hit in the chest and foot, and although police investigators won’t admit it yet, is believed to have been wounded in the exchange of fire with Acap.

But this incident was immediately linked to the murder of Barangay Captain Remia Gregori and the raid on the compound of the Odictas after it was revealed that Acap is considered an HVT — high-value target — in the illegal drugs war. That his perceived assailant (there’s no proof yet that it was Mocoro who had shot Acap) was a police officer triggered inconsistent statements from the police. Radio commentators suspect it’s an attempt to cover up the involvement of a police officer in an apparent drug rub-out.

Even as the police tried to downplay any connection between the three incidents, what is now seen as a pattern of extermination of narco-politicians has caused worry among family and friends of another Barangay Captain, Keith “Dabing” Espinosa, of Monica-Blumentritt. Dabing is the wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, alleged right hand man of the slain “Dragon”, who is now serving an 8-year prison sentence for shooting and wounding a neighbor in his barangay.

On Wednesday, Dabing’s supporters started to hold prayer vigils around her home in an effort to prevent a similar attack as what befell Kapitan Gregori. Reporters from Aksyon Radyo Iloilo who went to her house said she wasn’t around when they knocked at her door. It’s highly possible she’s now in hiding for fear of her safety.

What’s more intriguing is that this wave of violence against known illegal drugs targets came after President Rodrigo Duterte visited Iloilo City for the first time since he assumed the highest post of the Republic two years ago. Did President Duterte give specific instructions to eradicate the remnants of the drug syndicates that led him to brand Iloilo City as the “bedrock of illegal drugs”? Or did his expression of displeasure about narco-politicians still being re-elected during the recent barangay elections force the PNP to use physical force, rather than the rule of law, to step up the campaign against drugs?

What? Only one Iloilo City barangay captain in PDEA/DILG narcolist?

The disclosure made by the DILG and PDEA of the 207 barangay officials involved in illegal drugs left many Ilonggos shaking their heads in disbelief. That’s because the three most prominent barangay captains linked to the illegal drugs trade are not on the list. Only one — Barangay Captain Gemma Calzado of Kasing-kasing, Molo — was included in the list. All in all, the DILG and PDEA listed only 90 barangay captains from all over the country as being involved in illegal drugs, either as protectors or in the illicit trade itself.

What happened to Remia Prevendido-Gregori of Bakhaw, Dabing Espinosa of Monica-Blumentritt and Noemi Hablo of Desamparados? To this date, Barangay Bakhaw continues to be the hotbed of the illegal drugs trade in Iloilo City. Gregori is the sister of the slain drug group leader Richard Prevendido. Her son, Bonifacio, is in jail for being a drug dealer.

Dabing Espinosa is the wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, reputed to be the right-hand man of Melvin “Boyet” Odicta who was gunned down with his wife, Miriam, at the Caticlan port in Malay, Aklan on August 29, 2016. His house was raided by the police in October 2016; drugs and firearms were found in his house. Surprisingly, no charges were filed against Dabing despite the fact that the house is conjugal, and she was the incumbent barangay captain. Jing Jing surrendered to the court the next month to start serving an 8-year prison sentence for a crime he had committed several years ago.

Noemi Hablo had even admitted having undergone drug rehabilitation. Her late husband, Rusty, was a known illegal drugs dealer in Iloilo City.

Has the narcolist been sanitized? The DILG and PDEA could lose their credibility with this white-washed narcolist. It will put the drug war of President Rodrigo Duterte under a cloud of doubt. It raises the possibility that the President is being sabotaged by his own people.

Iloilo’s tres Marias

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to disclose to the public the names of 211 barangay captains who are allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade. I’m wondering if the three barangay captains in Iloilo City — all women — whose names have been linked to illegal drugs are included in the list. They are Keith “Dabing” Espinosa of Barangay Monica-Blumentritt, Remia Prevendido-Gregori of Barangay Bakhaw, and Noemi Hablo of Barangay Desamparados.

Espinosa is the wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, who is now serving a prison sentence for the shooting and wounding of an unarmed individual in his barangay more than a decade ago. Jing Jing was reputed to be a right hand man of the slain drug group leader Melvin “Boyet” Odicta, also known in Iloilo as “Dragon”.

Gregori is the sister of another drug group leader, Richard Prevendido, who was also killed in a police raid on Sept. 1, 2017. Her son, Bonifacio Gregori, is now in jail facing drugs charges. Her barangay is notorious as a lair for illegal drugs distribution.

Hablo’s deceased husband, Rusty, was a suspected drug peddler. He fled to Mindanao at the height of the tokhang operations of the police. But he was apprehended there in Mindanao; while in prison, he suffered from a nervous breakdown, and was reported to have committed suicide.

Which side are we on?

I am confused.
When Iloilo City was hit by a spate of murders by gunmen riding-in-tandem, apparently upon orders of drug syndicates and their corrupt protectors, there was no outcry.
I was even sued by Jed Patrick Mabilog for libel for labelling him as a crime protector.
And now La Salle and Ateneo communities are being agitated to wear black to protest the so-called extra judicial killings!
Which side are we on?
I know there are vigilante killings. But these have been going on for decades now. It’s not as if Duterte gave birth to it.
But most of the deaths in the war against illegal drugs resulted from legitimate operations.
To prove that legitimacy, we just need to count the number of PNP and PDEA agents who have died in the line of fire.
Those guys who continue to peddle shabu and other illicit drugs are desperate. They will kill to keep on with their trade. They know the authorities are hot on their trail, and they will do business armed and dangerous.
The Duterte administration should not relent on its war against illegal drugs. It must keep up the momentum. This is a fight to the finish.