GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 September) — Joint operatives arrested an alleged member of a major drug group operating in parts of Region 12 in an operation on Sunday in nearby Koronadal City in South Cotabato.
Gil Cesario Castro, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Region 12 director, identified the suspect as businessman Ruel Espinosa alias Balong, 54, who was listed as a “high value drug dealer.”
He said the suspect is a member of the El Patron Drug Group, which operates in Koronadal and nearby cities and municipalities in Region 12.
Castro said they nabbed Espinosa following a search operation at around 6:15 a.m. at the latter’s rice mill in Purok Kaunlaran, Barangay Sto. Nino in Koronadal.
The raiding team was composed of elements from PDEA-12, Joint Task Force GenSan and the Police Regional Office 12’s Special Action Force.
Castro said they recovered during the raid around 100 grams of suspected metamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu with an estimated value of P500,000, a digital weighing scale, a rifle grenade, a para ordnance caliber .45 handgun and a hi-cap cal. 45 magazine with 12 rounds of live ammunition.
He said they launched another search at around 7:50 a.m. at the suspect’s residence in Block 2, Callejo Subdivision in Barangay General Paulino Santos that yielded two M4 rifles with 30 rounds of live ammunition, a caliber .22 airgun rifle and an aluminum container with airgun ammunition.
The operatives also searched a house at a farm owned by the suspect’s farm but did not find any illegal item.
The official said they have long been monitoring the movements of the suspect, who is allegedly linked to other drug groups in other parts of the country.
“He uses his businesses as conduit of the illegal drug trade in the area,” Castro said in a statement on Monday.
In an interview with reporters, Espinosa denied any involvement in the El Patron Drug Group.
The suspect admitted that he owned several firearms but noted that they were all licensed.
Castro said Espinosa would be charged with violation of Section 11 or possession of dangerous drugs, under Article II of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Additional charges for violation of RA 10591 or illegal possession of firearms and ammunition would also be filed against the suspect, he said.
“In the coming days, we will escalate the drug war with focus on drug lords in our region,” he said.
Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato, and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong Kidapawan and Cotabato.
In the past several months, police and the PDEA-12 reported having dismantled several drug groups operating in Sarangani, South Cotabato and North Cotabato. (MindaNews)