Catanduanes gov disowns ‘mega shabu lab,’ implicates NBI exec
MANILA – Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua on Wednesday vehemently denied any connection to a recently busted “mega shabu laboratory” in Virac town, linking instead a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) official to the facility that can produce hundreds of kilos of methamphetamine daily.
In a press conference, Cua said the lab, which is the biggest discovered in the country so far, sits on a land that belongs to a certain Sarah Sarmiento and leased by Angelica Balmadrid, the common-law wife of NBI Region 7 director, Atty. Eric Isidro.
Cua added that data gathered by his team shows that the mega shabu lab was constructed in 2015 under a different administration.
A Chinese national named Jason Gonzales Uy and three other unidentified Chinese men operated the laboratory in the guise of a plastic recycling warehouse, the governor added.
The four Chinese were allegedly tipped off by NBI agents or local police of the a day before the raid of the laboratory last November 26.
Cua went on to deny allegations that he dabbles with illicit drugs through his shipping business.
He surmised that his political detractors are responsible for dragging his name into the narcotics trade.
Insisting that he never had drug ties in his years of public service, he added that he is open to any investigation.
He said he has asked the Department of Justice to immediately start finding leads and uncover the mastermind behind the mega shabu lab.
Cua said Isidro is now being investigated.
Cua’s name was brought up by Senator Trillanes at a Senate inquiry on Monday, where he accused the Duterte administration of taking no action against drug bigwigs.
“May nahuli, just recently na pinakamalaking shabu factory sa Catanduanes. Kaya nga dina-doubt ko rin iyong sincerity nitong drug war na ito dahil iyong malalaking drug lords na pinapangalanan hanggang ngayon ay untouched. Hindi ginagalaw, hindi iniimbestigahan,” Trillanes said.
“So, may nahuli diyan, under the care ito ni Gov. Cua at Virac Mayor Laynes. Sila iyong nagsu-supply. Grabe ang supply nila. Hindi nga na-me-mention, even ni President Duterte.”
P2M worth of shabu seized in Catanduanes
VIRAC, Catanduanes—Policemen in Pandan town in Catanduanes province recovered on Thursday morning more than P2 million worth of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) following a tip from an illegal drugs suspect.
Senior Supt. Jesus Martirez, provincial police director, said the stash of illegal drugs was dug up at 2 a.m. in Barangay Balangonan.
He said they found the drugs based on a tip given by Randy Eusebio, 33, an abaca stripper, who was earlier arrested for drugs possession.
The stash, said to be the largest volume seized in the island province of Catanduanes, consisted of 71 packs with an estimated street value of P30,000 each, for a total value of P2.13 million.
Martirez said police raided Eusebio’s house in Barangay Libod, also in Pandan, two days earlier and found 12 sachets of shabu.
On the same day, police in the capital town of Virac searched the house of Noli Vargas in Barangay Concepcion and recovered a sachet of shabu. Vargas was not at home during the raid./rga
Cops find drug lab in Catanduanes
VIRAC, Catanduanes—A spike in electricity bills from P1,000 to P50,000 monthly, which indicated unusual power consumption, led police to a warehouse that served as a drug laboratory just a few kilometers from the town proper here.
The laboratory, which sits on a 1,000 square meter lot that is part of a 400,000 square meter estate, was raided on Saturday but no arrests were made.
A team of lawmen, led by acting Virac police director Chief Insp. James Ronatay, found the drug lab just 100 meters from the main highway in the village of Palta Small at a raid past 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Information about the existence of the drug lab came from several drug suspects from the Bicol region, who had told police that they got their supply from a source in Catanduanes.
Police worked on the information with the help of Google maps, locating buildings that bear the trademarks of one that is being used as a drug lab—they’re unusually large and located in remote areas.
A building in Palta Small stood out for its unusually high consumption of electricity.
Virac Mayor Samuel Laynes, citing records from the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative (Ficelco), said during the first months of the year, the warehouse’s power bill ranged from just P1,000 to P1,500 a month.
Starting in June, the warehouse consumed an average of P50,000 a month in electricity.
The raiding team found the building locked and its owner, a Filipino-Chinese identified as Jayson Gonzales Uy, was nowhere to be found. Witnesses said Uy had left the area as early as Friday afternoon.
Found inside the warehouse, ringed by CCTV cameras, were two rooms keeping pieces of equipment that police said are being used to manufacture “shabu” (methampethamine hydrochloride).
Also found were hundreds of water containers, sealed plastic pails, several freezers, electrical equipment and three machines that have yet to be installed. Police said the machines are for the manufacture of shabu, too.
Police also found chemical containers, digital weighing scales, plastic bags and a notebook with Chinese words and numerals beside the letters “kgs,” which apparently meant kilograms.
Angelica Balmadrid, owner of the property and wife of National Bureau of Investigation agent Eric Isidoro assigned to the anti-illegal drug team in Manila, confirmed that she had leased the land to Uy in March last year.
She said she met Uy in San Isidro Village in February 2015. Balmadrid said she is leasing a total of 400,000 square meters from the heirs of Ulpiano and Sarah Sarmiento and sub-leased 1,000 square meters of the land to Uy.
Balmadrid said Uy introduced himself as Paulo and a resident of Baclaran in Paranaque City.
Uy, according to Balmadrid, had said he wanted to build a plastic factory after seeing demand for plastic ware in Virac.
Construction of the warehouse was finished in September 2015. Balmadrid said she had not visited the land leased by Uy since.
When she accompanied the raiding team on Saturday, Balmadrid said she was surprised to see how big the warehouse is but knew it to be manufacturing only plastic products.
The structure is L-shaped and about two stories tall. It could not be seen from the highway, though.
When the raiding team entered the building, the noxious smell of chemicals greeted it.
Chief Insp. Josephine Clemen, Catanduanes crime laboratory officer-in-charge, said the machines that have not been installed indicated that the drug lab is being upgraded.
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