FIVE policemen of Bacolod City, including its police chief, were relieved from their posts after President Rodrigo Duterte linked them, and a politician to illegal drugs.
Duterte was in Bacolod Saturday night, January 12, to attend the birthday of Leo Rey Yanson, Vallacar Transit Incorporated (VTI) president and chief executive officer, at the L' Fisher Hotel. It was his first visit in the city this year.
Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, director of Police Regional Office (PRO)-Western Visayas, said the President, during his speech, fired Senior Superintendent Francisco Ebreo, acting Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) director, “for allegedly enabling the proliferation of illegal drugs in Bacolod City, and protecting commissioned and non-commissioned officers of BCPO who are allegedly involved in illegal drugs.”
Bulalacao and Ebreo were outside the hotel securing the area when Duterte made the revelation.
After the President’s speech, Bulalacao validated the names mentioned by Duterte and immediately ordered their relief so it will not affect their investigation.
“I believed him. Being the President, he has many sources of information and he has a basis for that,” Bulalacao said.
The four other alleged narco-cops named by Duterte were Superintendent Ritchie Yatar, head of the City Mobile Force Company; Superintendent Allan Macapagal, deputy city director for administration; Superintendent Nasruddin Tayuan of BCPO; and Senior Inspector Victor Paulino, former head of Police Station 3 and Mobile Patrol Group.
Tayuan as head of the Intelligence Unit of the BCPO was transferred to PRO-Soccsksargen in General Santos City in May 2018 upon the order of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp Crame while Macapagal was just reassigned to BCPO in December 2018 from PRO-Western Visayas in Iloilo City.
Bulalacao said the five policemen were transferred to the Regional Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit (RPHAU) in Iloilo City, pending the investigation.
They will report to Malacañang Monday, January 14, except for Tayuan who is no longer under the supervision of PRO-Western Visayas, to meet the President at 2 p.m.
All the regional directors, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), will also have a command conference with the President at the said venue, Bulalacao said.
With Ebreo’s immediate relief, Senior Superintendent Henry Biñas, chief of the Regional Personnel and Human Resource Doctrine Development Division (RPHRDD), will assume as the officer-in-charge of the BCPO.
Biñas was the former provincial director of Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office (Norppo) and head of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO).
Bulalacao told the media he was surprised that Ebreo was implicated in illegal drugs.
“Somehow, I was sad and disappointed. All the while, I thought he’s performing and I admire a member of the regional headquarters if he implements my programs thoroughly,” Bulalacao said.
Bulalacao said Ebreo has been doing his part as the acting BCPO director for more than a year, as he cited the discipline he raised and imposed to the officers and members of the City Police force during his stint.
“But everything was brought down. Nanghihinayang ako and nalulungkot para sa kanya,” he added.
He went to the BCPO headquarters and confronted Ebreo about the probable reason for his implication in the illegal drugs.
Bulalacao said Ebreo told him he has something in his mind but chose to keep it to himself because he also wanted to verify the report.
“Pero naiintindihan ko siya, malungkot siya. He’s not expecting na ganun ang mangyayari sa kanya dito sa Bacolod (But I understand him. He’s sad. He’s not expecting that it will happen to him here in Bacolod),” he added.
When asked for reaction, Ebreo refused to comment on the matter as of this time.
In a reply to SunStar Bacolod, he said: “Sorry not now, in due time, I will. The truth will prevail.”
During Ebreo’s stint, only one BCPO personnel assigned in a police station was tested positive for illegal drug use and was immediately moved to RPHAU, but the said police officer went on absent without official leave (Awol) status after his relief.
Also, under Ebreo’s leadership, the BCPO has seized an estimated total of P42.222 million worth of illegal drugs from January 1 to December 31, 2018.
As this developed, Bulalacao said the narco-cops, except for Ebreo, were already investigated since there were reports about their alleged engagement in the illegal drug trade even before he was assigned as regional director in Western Visayas.
But at present, the four police officers have no illegal drug activities based on the intelligence reports, he added.
He said, “in fact, I previously subjected Macapagal to cadet training, together with some members of the BCPO at the regional headquarters.”
Also, though Paulino was among the BCPO personnel who led the neutralization of Western Visayas drug lord Ramy Poja in Barangay Banago in May 2018, there were still reports about his alleged involvement in illegal drugs, he added.
He, however, said the four police officers were not charged because they have not gathered enough evidence against them.
But he assured they will be thoroughly investigated because of the statement of the President.
Meanwhile, Bulalacao said it is expected from the men and women of the BCPO to feel low morale since their head was implicated in illegal drugs. But he advised them it should not prevail because it may affect their performance and service to the public.
He stressed that the revelations made by the president should instead serve as a warning to all PNP members in the region.
“Maaaring ngayon, bukas, makalawa, hindi kayo mahuli or mabanggit na involve sa illegal drugs. But later on, your name will come out. Walang lihim na hindi nabubunyag,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bulalacao also confirmed to the media that the President mentioned Bacolod City Councilor Ricardo “Cano” Tan to be allegedly involved in drugs.
Duterte identified him as a high-value target ranked fourth in the watchlist.
He said they will make a case build-up against Tan so they can file a case if proven that he committed an offense.
Tan has yet to issue a statement about the alleged drug links.
In December 2018, Tan and his wife were ambushed by three unidentified armed men.
The assailants released rapid gunfire to the official’s vehicle, which hit the windshield. Both victims managed to survive but were injured after they sustained abrasions from the broken glass window of the car.
As to the progress of the police investigation regarding the ambush incident, the PRO-6 top cop said they are still eyeing four angles as the motive of the incident - politics, business, personal, and illegal drugs.
But until now, the police have yet to find any evidence that can establish the real motive of the incident, he said. They also do not have the identities of the perpetrators yet.
Bulalacao previously ordered Ebreo to solve the case and even told newly-installed officer-in-charge of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo), Senior Superintendent Romeo Baleros, to help the case because it also happened within the province.
When sought for reaction, Bacolod City Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran said Duterte’s pronouncement was a shocking revelation.
“We did not expect it,” he said. But he is hoping that Tan and his family can defend it.
“Let’s leave it to the law enforcement agencies,” he added.
The vice mayor said Tan has yet to attend a session of the City Council after the attempt on his life.
He can be absent or he can file a leave if he still cannot attend the session, Familiaran added.
He also expressed surprise when Ebreo and four other policemen were mentioned by the President.
“Indi na lahog-lahog (It’s not a joke). The information he received came from his sources,” Familiaran said.
When asked for an assessment on Ebreo’s performance, Familiaran cited there was a reduction on crimes against persons and properties during his leadership.
Policemen were also visible on the streets and there’s always apprehension against illegal drugs, with a daily recovery of not less than P50, 000 worth of narcotics, he added.
He is hoping that these policemen can defend themselves.
For his part, Bacolod City Representative Greg Gasatay refused to comment on the matter, which he considered to be sensitive.
Meanwhile, Bulalacao also said Duterte mentioned two more persons who were reportedly into the illegal drug trade in the province.
One was a known drug pusher and the other was a former policeman, both from La Carlota City. However, no specific names were mentioned.
Meanwhile, the President passed by Barangay 16 before he left Bacolod past midnight over the weekend.
Barangay 16 was formerly headed by Nelson Ligaya Jr., who was killed by motorcycle-riding assailants in December 2018.
Duterte, during his visit in Bacolod in October last year for the MassKara Festival, mentioned that there was a barangay official who was allegedly involved in illegal drugs.
The BCPO and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Western Visayas earlier dismissed the reports that Ligaya was the one alluded to by the President since he’s not part of the drugs watchlist in the region.