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Thursday, January 17, 2019

PDEA to go after suspected drug lords’ assets

DIRECTOR Yogi Felimon Ruiz of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7 yesterday said that they will coordinate with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (ALMC) to trace investments of suspected drug lords.

Speaking during the 888 News Forum at Marco Polo, Ruiz said that there are more than 10 drug lords in Cebu and most of them are “high-value targets” because of their huge assets.

He said PDEA has the mandate to stop illegal drugs, while AMLC has the power to look at the financial records of the drug lords. Since these are related, both PDEA and AMLC may work together to seize illegal assets.

Money laundering

Ruiz said that because of their vast ill-gotten wealth, most of the drug lords invested their money in companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to make their money legal.

One of the drug lords on the list is Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr., who is a Cebuano but migrated to Albuera, Leyte where his father Rolando Espinosa Sr. was elected mayor last May 9.

When asked why drug lords like Kerwin and the late Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz always got off the hook in their cases, Ruiz said they could afford to hire high-caliber lawyers to defend them in court.

This is the reason PDEA 7 is documenting activities of suspected drug lords so it can build strong cases enough to convict them in court, he said.

“We are given three to six months by President (Rodrigo) Duterte to get at least seven of the top 10 drug lords. We hope to conduct intensified operations in the coming days in order to arrest the drug lords,” Ruiz said.

Meanwhile, Ruiz said government officials on the President’s list of drug personalities does not mean they are protectors of drug lords or involved directly in illegal drugs.

Crime of omission

He said some of them have committed the crime of omission, such as refusal to support anti-illegal drug campaign within their communities.

“The President has all the power to tap all government instrumentalities to compile the list (which he read a few days ago). If ever PDEA 7 had any part in making that list, it was done by the previous directors. This is my eighth day on the job,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said it’s his policy to validate if he receives a list of persons allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.

“We want to arrest the real culprit. As much as possible, we should not tarnish the reputation of the innocent ones. Nobody should be allowed to cause a false report for political purpose,” Ruiz said.
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