PDEA Operatives and Civilian Cohorts to be Charged with Robbery

14 August 2013

In a Resolution dated 05 August 2013, Assistant State Prosecutor STEWART ALLAN A. MARIANO found probable cause to  charge Respondent ZOILO M. LACHICA, JR., Director of the  ntelligence & Investigation Division, Philippine Drug  Enforcement Agency (PDEA); members-operatives of PDEA's  Intelligence and Investigation Service (IIS), namely,  Respondents MARVIN T. MENDOZA, JONATHAN A. MORALES,  GREGORIO S. CAMUA, VIRGILIO R. CASTILLO II, MARK ANTHONY OMONES, LAILA A. ABAD, MARTIN FRANCIA, ALVIN MORALES, DAVE JAMES M. CURIOSO, RODOLFO CAISIP, JR., ANTONIO A. ROMERO, JR., NORMAN DE LA CRUZ DAEZ; civilians ERNESTO GARCIA, JR., JONATHAN M.  GANGCUANGCO; and REYNETI'E DE ISIDRO for robbery  with violence, intimidation under Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code, in connection with allegations of conspiring and confederating with one another to extort Php8,000,000.00 from Complainant Mark Sy Tan.

Records would show that complainant Mark Sy Tan was arrested by Respondents-operatives of the PDEA on 18 July 2012 at the NAIA Terminal 3 Arrival on the basis I of a valid search warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 103, for violation of Section 5, in relation to Section 26, Article II of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. It is also undisputed that he was later brought to the Investigation and Intelligence Office of the PDEA National Headquarters at Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City, where he was booked, subjected to medical examination at Camp Crame, and eventually committed to the Quezon City Jail on 19 July 2012 after the return of the warrant was made.

During the preliminary investigation of the case, Complainants Mark Sy Tan and Judy Tan, through Joseph Tan, submitted as evidence the Banco de Oro deposit slip in the amount of Php 8,000,000.00 to the account of witness Berna Catacutan in order to substantiate the truthfulness of their allegations against the Respondents. The Resolution stated that "this piece of documentary evidence served as a paper trail to buttress the undeniable fact that indeed a deposit of such amount was made to the savings account of Berna P. Catacutan (Savings Account No. 435009064) maintained at the BDO Walter Mart Branch San Fernando, Pampanga. Other pieces of documentary evidence such as the deposit slips to the accounts of respondents Gangcuangco and Garcia, the Savings pass book and ATM of witness Catacutan, as well as the ATM transaction slips, all but confirm the veracity of what witness Catacutan professed in her sworn statement implicating respondents Daez and de Isidro as cohorts to the dastardly act of extortion, in connivance with the other respondents."

ASP Mariano gave credence to the testimony of witness Catacutan, in so far as her personal knowledge of the bank transactions are concerned, and her dealings with Respondents Daez and de Isidro regarding the deposit and withdrawals from her savings account. "Notwithstanding his feigned innocence, Respondent Daez miserably failed in his attempt to deny any foreknowledge and of his participation in the crime. He was actually the bagman, who albeit not present during the arrest of complainant Mark Sy Tan, communicated with the other respondents who made the earlier arrest." He, in fact, obtained the amount of Php6,500,000.00 from witness Catacutan immediately after she withdrew the money from BDO.

"More importantly, we cannot help but surmise that respondent Romero was the direct contact person of de Isidro who relayed to the latter the savings account number of Catacutan where the money was eventually funnelled." ASP Mariano also noted that complainant Tan was able to personally identify the Respondents, through their photographs, who arrested him at the NAIA terminal upon his arrival.

As can be gleaned from an examination of the Authority to Operate by the PDEA operatives, "there is no shadow of a doubt that it was issued for casing and surveillance only, and not primarily for the service of a warrant of arrest. This is clearly attested to by no less than respondent Jonathan Morales in his sworn statement." 

Anent Respondent Romero's defense of alibi, ASP Mariano found the defense highly untenable as he was positively identified by complainants Mark Sy Tan and Judy Tan as one of the arresting officers at the NAJA arrival area. "Respondent Romero was even alluded to, nay, specifically pointed to as the one who demanded the money from complainants. ASP Mariano gave credence to the statement of Reynaldo Maramag, the security officer of that day, who claims to have seen Respondent Romero at Room 207 at the PDEA together with the other Respondents.

ASP Mariano further resolved that "[c]onspiracy is [evidenced by] respondents' common acts of covering up for one another in like manner that respondent Francia, who even admitted that he was directly involved in the Tan Drug case, claimed that he was not part of the arresting team, and that he was on another assignment." However, his physical presence in the premises at the time of incident, in the first place, could not be an impossibility. On the other hand, "respondent Caisip, Jr. cannot also feign his participation as he was the driver of one of the cars at the time of the arrest, but who was positively identified by complainants Mark Sy Tan and Judy Tan as one of the several men who also came out of their cars and assisted in the arrest."

As for Respondents de Isidro, Garcia, Jr., and Gangcuangco, ASP Mariano found them to be major participants in the crime of extortion whose respective indispensable participations are glaringly despicable. It is definite from witness Catacutan's narration that they gained financially from the extortion.

Essentially, the Respondents were part of a grand cover-up to hide the crime, such that Respondent Lachica, Jr. should likewise be held criminally liable, not just for being the director of the IIS responsible for the overt actions of his subordinates, but also for his admitted knowledge of the arrest of complainant Mark Sy Tan, and that he was initially informed of the same by Respondent Mendoza.

With respect to Respondent Jose S. Gutierrez, Jr., ASP Mariano found no sufficient basis to hold  him criminally liable. At best, administrative liability may attach to his inaction as  Director General of the PDEA, but such is beyond the province of   the preliminary  investigation proceedings.

Hence, probable cause was found to charge the Respondents with the crime of robbery, with a further finding that the same could not have been committed without the existence of conspiracy among all Respondents.

Pursuant to said findings, it is recommended that the corresponding Information be filed in the appropriate court  of Quezon City.


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