Ex-PDEG chief: Mandatory witnesses were not present during ₱6.7-B drug haul

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — Former Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group chief Narciso Domingo admitted on Tuesday that mandatory witnesses were only called up right after the massive anti-illegal drug operation in Manila last year, which led to the seizure of ₱6.7-billion worth of shabu.

Senator Raffy Tulfo questioned why witnesses were only available right after the buy-bust operation.

"Anong guarantee namin na mayroon na kayong naitago o naipuslit na ebidensya bago dumating ang mga media o witnesses? In this case, dito kayo nagkaroon ng lapses," said Tulfo during the Senate hearing.

[Translation: What’s our guarantee that you have not pilfered or hidden the evidence before the media or witnesses arrived? In this case, there are already lapses here.]

"Sa isang oras na biyahe o sabihin natin 30 minutes, marami nang pwede mangyaring milagro in that span of 30 minutes," he added.

[Translation: Within an hour or say 30 minutes of travel, many things could have already happened in that span of 30 minutes]

CCTV footage caught some operatives of the PDEG behind the alleged pilferage of the seized drugs. A total of 990 kilos of shabu were found at a property of Police Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo Jr.

The Supreme Court in 2022 reminded law enforcers to ensure the presence of mandatory witnesses – the media and representatives from the Department of Justice – during drug operations, in line with the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2022.

Domingo admitted that he also arrived after the buy-bust operation because he was not informed beforehand by PDEG Special Operations Unit Region 4A chief PCol. Julian Olonan about the operation.

“For the record, may I emphasize there was no massive, attempted cover up as already portrayed in the media, otherwise, I would not have taken action and reported the following to the national police headquarters,” said Domingo.

“I was informed at about past 1 o'clock in the afternoon, but the operation started at past 11 in the morning,” he added.

But Tulfo was not convinced with Domingo’s reason.

“You should be there to lead, that's the quality of a good leader […] You should be there to give instructions to lead your men at kung may nangyari man doon, at least kasama ka (if anything happens, at least you are there),” the senator said.