Congressmen siding with anti-drug agents

By Sammy Martin, Reporter

If it were up to them, lawmakers said Friday, they would have skewered a lawyer of the “Alabang Boys” for making a mockery of the country’s criminal-justice system.

Members of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs said Friday it was the call of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez who failed them, and worse said that they were “biased” against him on his handling of the case of the “Alabang Boys.”

Rep. Antonio Cuenco of Cebu City, during an interview, said that Gonzalez should have berated Felisberto Verano Jr., the lawyer of two of the three boys—Richard Santos Brodett and Joseph Ramirez Tecson—but instead accused the House committee of fault-finding in Verano preparing a draft release order for the release of drug suspects Brodett and Tecson and the third accused, Jorge Jordana Joseph.

“I am a little bit surprised with the behavior of our dear friend [Gonzalez],” Cuenco added. “He should have at least reprimanded Verano, who [acts] as if he is a senior staff of the Justice department.”

The Justice secretary, also a former lawmaker, should have “scolded him [Verano], raised hell [against the lawyer] and castigated him. I don’t know why he [Gonzalez] did not do that,” the congressman said.

It was found that Verano, who was not authorized to prepare any such order, had also written the draft release order on pilfered stationery of the Justice department. Gonzalez said that he did not sign the order, although he had seen and read it.

The “Alabang Boys” lawyer also was discovered to have used office facilities of his fraternity brother and Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor in writing the draft release order.

Rep. Roilo Golez of Parañaque City, who claims he respects Gonzalez, was shocked at the accusation of the Justice chief that the members of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs were ganging up on him.

Biased congressmen

During a recent interview with reporters, Gonzalez said members of the committee headed by Rep. Roque Ablan Jr. of Ilocos Norte were all finding loopholes in a resolution signed by Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, Senior State Prosecutor Philip Kimpo and State Prosecutor John Resado, who had written the document.

The resolution dismissed the drug charges against the three accused. The dismissal apparently made Verano think of pulling a fast one on the Justice department by preparing the draft release order himself. It spawned charges that Justice officials, state prosecutors supposedly among them, had been bribed with P50 million in exchange for their authorizing the release of the three young drug suspects.

“The problem with some of the congressmen is that they were biased already from the very start . . . Even the grammar of the supposed resolution, they were attacking it,” Gonzalez said.

“You no longer have probity when you make conclusions while you are still investigating. [You] make pronouncements already. That is the reason why I am not happy,” he added. Gonzalez refused to name the lawmakers he was referring to.

‘Attack’ on Marcelino

Golez, in a text message, said the Justice secretary “should not have gone ballistic” at young Marine Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino, whom the congressman said was just doing his job. Marcelino this week testified during a committee hearing on the case of the “Alabang Boys,” insisting, for one, that entrapments of the “Alabang Boys” were carried out according to the law.

Blancaflor also on Friday said that the alleged P50-million bribery scandal rocking the Justice department could be part of a demolition job bankrolled by some influential groups that he had crossed in the performance of his duties.

He expressed belief that he was the primary target of the groups as shown by misinformation that dragged his name in the controversy, “making it appear that I used strong-arm tactics against [PDEA] for the release of the “Alabang Boys.”’

“It [demolition job] could be the handiwork of people or groups affected by my campaign against human trafficking and extra-judicial killings,” Blancaflor said.

As the head of Task Force 211, he added, he had stepped on the toes of many influential personalities and even put in jail some of them.

“In the course of my duties as chairman of Task Force 211, I have sent to jail military and police officers and politicians, among others. They have an axe to grind against me and they could have seized this opportunity to get back at me,” Blancaflor said.

He added that he has some names in mind but refused to disclosed them until such time that he has gathered enough evidence against them.

Task Force 211 was created by President Gloria Arroyo to resolve cases involving political violence and extra-judicial killings.

Blancaflor was linked to the “Alabang Boys” controversy on Marcelino’s diclosure that the Justice undersecretary had called him to inquire why the PDEA had not yet released Brodett, Jo­seph and Tecson, all scions of wealthy families.

He admitted to having made the call but said that “it was a simple query” on his part, nothing more, nothing less.

“The truth of the matter was, I was only performing a valid and legal function by inquiring from PDEA why the December 2, 2008 resolution was not yet implemented three weeks after such was made. I was informed by the staff of Director General Dionisio Santiago that an appeal was being made. So I asked for a copy and I left it at that,” Blancaflor said in an earlier statement. Santiago is chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Release order

On December 2, 2008, the Justice department issued the resolution signed by Chief State Prosecutor Zuño ordering the release of the three suspects, citing, among others, illegal arrest and search.

But allegations cropped that some prosecutors and drug-agency officials were bribed with P50 million in exchange for the dismissal of the case. It prompted the Justice secretary to call for an investigation.

Gonzalez said that the three suspects would remain in detention pending clearance and final approval of the dismissal resolution from his office.

The three drug suspects are detained at the agency’s detention center. They were charged with violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensivie Dangerous Drug Act of 2002, a “non-bailable” offense punishable by “reclusion perpetua” or life imprisonment.

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