MANILA, Philippines—Marine Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino’s drug-bust operations for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) could be considered “unconstitutional” since active duty military officers like him are barred from holding position in a government agency, according to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.
“As far as I’m concerned the acts done when you’re not authorized should not have any bearing whatsoever (because) you have no authority,” Gonzalez told reporters Wednesday.
He quoted Article XVI Sec. 5 paragraph 4 of the Constitution that provides that no active military officer may be appointed to any capacity in any civilian office including government agencies.
Marcelino said he was appointed to the post by Malacañang when the PDEA was beginning to build an organic staff and rise from an agency of borrowed personnel.
Marcelino said he was only following orders when assigned to the agency in 2007.
“Marines just go where we are told,” Marcelino told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Wednesday.
The soldier, who had seen action in Mindanao, said he got the assignment on the request of the PDEA and that his detail went through the hierarchy of approving offices: The Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters, the Department of National Defense, and finally, Malacañang.
“It’s not up to us where we will be assigned. We can’t choose where we will be assigned,” he said.
Besides heading the agency’s Special Enforcement Service, Marcelino is also chief of the International Cooperation and Foreign Affairs Service and the Interagency Counternarcotics Operations Network.
Two other military officers, both Marcelino’s “mistahs” (classmates) in the Philippine Military Academy’s Bantay Laya class of 1994, hold key positions at the PDEA—one is acting director of PDEA’s Plans and Operations Service and the other, an army major, handles intelligence.
The soldiers also handle training of recruited agents.
Teodoro brought up question
Gonzalez said Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro brought up the question over Marcelino’s authority to work in the PDEA at the Cabinet meeting Tuesday in which the controversy was discussed.
“Secretary Teodoro mentioned that he (Marcelino) is an active military officer (and) he is covered by the Constitution. That is a specific provision of the law. So if you would analyze that, all his acts are illegal. Unconstitutional and illegal,” Gonzalez said.
It was the PDEA Special Enforcement Service headed by Marcelino that arrested Richard Brodett Jr., Jorge Joseph and Joseph Tecson—the so-called Alabang Boys—in separate buy-bust operations in September last year.
Marcelino disclosed that he was offered bribes ranging from P3 million to P20 million for the release of the suspects. He said he rejected the offers.
The PDEA also claimed that a P50-million bribe led to the dismissal of the drug possession charges against the suspects, prompting a word war between the PDEA and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Even as the prosecutors vehemently denied the allegation, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered five justice officials and prosecutors to go on leave pending an “independent” investigation.
“I never raised this to the President because if it came from me it would be colored. It came about in the course of the (Cabinet) discussion. It was Secretary Teodoro who reacted,” Gonzalez said.
Asked if the arrest of the Alabang Boys could be considered void because Marcelino was the lead agent, Gonzalez said the matter could be questioned in court by the suspects.
“That’s now the subject of investigation and it has been raised before the Court of Appeals,” he said.
“I’m just saying that under the Constitution, he’s disqualified (from working in PDEA) because he’s an active duty (military) officer,” Gonzalez added.
“If he wants to stay in the PDEA, he should resign from the Armed Forces,” Gonzalez said.
“All the operations handled by Major Marcelino (in PDEA) could be considered invalid, unconstitutional unless you can consider that as a de facto act,” the justice secretary added.
“I don’t think the President can refuse to accept that because that is the Constitution,” Gonzalez added.
Told that active duty military officers were serving in other government offices, Gonzalez said this was the lookout of the heads of the government agencies involved.
Gonzalez said PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago, a former military chief of staff, could enlist the assistance of anyone except an active duty military officer.
“He can enlist under him (exiled communist party founder) Joma Sison,” Gonzalez quipped.
He said that at the Cabinet meeting, he confronted Santiago for failing to substantiate his claim that a P50-million bribery took place after the arrest of the Alabang Boys.
Charges of bribery have become a major point of debate after Santiago himself admitted at a hearing in the House of Representatives last week that the PDEA floated the P50-million alleged bribe in the media as part of its “psy-war” tactics against the DOJ prosecutors.
“That’s why they have to be properly educated on all procedures required under the (anti-illegal drugs) law,” the justice secretary said.
Right at the inquest, State Prosecutor John Resado already dismissed the drug possession charges against the three suspects due to lapses in the PDEA’s arrest procedure.
Reveal classmate’s name
The dismissal of the charges was upheld upon review by two more state prosecutors and ultimately by Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, who has strongly denied any wrongdoing in the process.
In the House of Representatives, the committee on dangerous drugs is urging Marcelino to expose in public his mistah who offered him “tatlong manok (three chickens)” or P3 million to drop the charges against the Alabang Boys.
“He (Marcelino) has to eventually grapple with his gut in revealing who is this classmate of his who made the proposal. This is the gap in his otherwise brilliant testimony. His continued refusal will crack his credibility,” Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez said at Wednesday’s committee meeting.
Golez’s proposal for Marcelino to reveal his mistah’s identity to the Office of the Ombudsman was adopted by the committee.
Golez said that it would be better that the Ombudsman take over the bribery probe because Marcelino might have qualms about cooperating with the National Bureau of Investigation, which is under the DOJ.
Marcelino revealed to Golez and other committee members the identity of his classmate in PMA Class of 1994 during an executive session last week.
Senior State Prosecutor Phillip Kimpo, vice chair of the DOJ’s Task Force on Anti-Illegal Drugs, accused Marcelino of “covering up” for his mistah, saying his refusal to name him was “suspicious.” With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.