SouthCot officials watched for alleged role in illegal drug trade

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/03 February) — Several elected officials in South Cotabato province are reportedly being monitored by local authorities due to their alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade and other related activities.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Monday the concerned officials were placed in the area’s drug watch list based on intelligence information gathered by local police units and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Region 12.

She said some of these officials were supposedly involved directly in the selling of illegal drugs, specifically of metamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, in some parts of the province.

The governor declined to identify the erring officials but noted that a number of them were newly-elected village or barangay officials.

“Most of these are long time drug addicts who eventually went into drug pushing,” she said in a radio interview.

In late December, regional police operatives arrested a barangay chair of Banga town in South Cotabato who was tagged as behind the distribution of shabu in the area.

The raid, which was conducted on Punong Grande barangay chair Bobby Delalamon’s house, reportedly yielded several sachets of suspected shabu.

Chief Insp. Maximo Sebastian, chief of PRO-12’s Regional Special Investigation and Detection Team, earlier said they staged the raid after confirming the official’s involvement in illegal drug activities in the area.

Fuentes said that aside from the monitoring, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 12 and the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office are conducting separate investigations and gathering evidences against the involved officials.

She said the investigations are focused on determining the extent of involvement of the erring officials in the illegal drug trade and the identification of their other cohorts.

Investigators are also looking out for possible connections between the officials and some members of local police and military units, she said.

“Our local authorities are determined to pin down these officials and there are some operations already being planned against them within the coming weeks,” Fuentes said.

Meantime, provincial board member Agustin Demaala, co-chair of the Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Council, said they are currently monitoring several villages in the province that are reportedly being used by drug syndicates as drop-off points of illegal drugs, especially of shabu.

He said a number of villages were also being watched for the possible presence and operations of shabu tiangges.

“We’ve been receiving a lot of reports regarding this matter and are now being verified by our operatives,” said Demaala, who heads the board’s committee on public order and safety.

Last month, police and PDEA-12 agents dismantled two shabu tiangges in separate operations in Barangay San Jose in Koronadal City and Purok Krislam, Barangay Simsiman in Norala town.

A shabu tiangge operating within a small-scale mining area in Barangay Kematu in T’boli was dismantled last year by PDEA-12 and the T’boli police station. (MindaNews)