AGENTS of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Central Visayas arrested three persons in a drug bust in a drug den about 10 meters from the Cebu City Hall Thursday morning.
Special Investigator Arnel Pura, team leader, said that the agency had received reports that some City Hall employees and students used shabu in the drug den, a two-storey house in Sitio Lutaw-lutaw, Barangay Santo Niño.
As an offshoot of the raid, a member of Cebu City’s Police Coordinating and Advisory Council (PCAC) wants the City Government to demolish some of the structures in Sitio Lutaw-lutaw.
Tinago Barangay Captain Joel Garganera said he wants some of the structures torn down to help stop the proliferation of drugs. He said that three houses in the area, with a total of six rooms, are allegedly being used as drug dens.
Mayor Michael Rama told the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor and the City’s demolition crew to conduct an inventory in the area, identify the businesses located there and find out if these have permits from the City.
“Check on the area because if it is a Sodom and Gomorrah area, then why should that thing continue to exist?” he said.
The NBI arrested Gladys Entoma, her live-in partner Christopher Hilongos and Fidelina Salcedo inside the den, which reportedly belongs to a former public official. The suspects are in their 20s.
“We prioritized this because it is so proximate to City Hall. We received information that some City Hall employees are regular visitors here, especially during payday,” he said.
The alleged drug den is on the dead end of an alley where three offices of notary publics also operate.
The base of the Cebu City Police Office’s tourist police unit is also a few meters away from the den.
Before the drug bust happened past 8 a.m., Pura said that an informant tipped them off about the existence of the den a month ago and they conducted surveillance.
NBI confirmed the suspects’ involvement in the illegal drug trade after they bought a pack of shabu from them.
Entoma allegedly gave a sachet of suspected shabu to the poseur-buyer, who, in turn, paid her P300 in marked bills.
Pura said that the suspects sourced their drug supply from Bato, Barangay Ermita in Cebu City.
There are cubicles on the second floor of the house where junkies allegedly sniff illegal drugs. NBI agents also found rolled tissue papers, tinfoil strips and empty plastic sachets.
Pura said it was the first time the alleged drug den got raided.
For their part, the suspects denied they were in the illegal drug trade.
“Wala ko’y kalibutan ani (I don’t know anything about this),” said Hilongos.
Entoma and Hilongos have a three-year-old boy, who was crying when he saw his parents taken by the agents.
Hilongos’s cousin said he did not know the suspect was selling shabu.
A complaint for violating Republic Act 9165 (the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) for selling illegal drugs and maintaining a drug den will be filed against the suspects.
Interviewed separately, Garganera, who is also vice chairperson of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC), said there is no reason the City cannot demolish the structures, considering that it has also cleared the CitiCenter Complex in Barangay Kamagayan, which used to be known as a drug den.
“As a member of PCAC, I will endorse the demolition of these structures. Subo kaayo pamalandungon (It’s very sad to note) that this is just within spitting distance of the seat of power. Health-wise, sanitation-wise, lisod kaayo (this is a tough situation). This area is also a fire hazard,” said Garganera.
Asked if the City owns the lot where the structures are located, Garganera said that has to be verified first. He recalled it was the same site where the ABC was supposed to be located. An ABC building, though, has already been constructed in the South Road Properties.
Mayor Rama, for his part, commended the NBI for conducting the buy-bust operation.
“Wa man ta’y ginganlan ug sacred cow. There is no sacred cow because I am really of the view that ang atong drug-making (activities) are just under our noses,” he said.
The mayor believes those operating illegal activities in Sitio Lutaw-lutaw transferred there after he ordered the demolition of a dilapidated building near the executive building years ago. That dilapidated building, he said, also served as a drug den.
The City Council, through a resolution by Councilor Dave Tumulak, also commended the NBI for their operation.