MANILA — The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has filed graft and corruption charges against local officials of Pampanga before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the sale of more than 4,000 pigs in a swine farm used as front to conceal an underground clandestine shabu laboratory in Magalang, Pampanga.
In a statement Sunday, PDEA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña said that the agency is convinced that Mayor Maria Lourdes Paras Lacson of Magalang, Pampanga and Mayor Jose Maria Hizon of Bacolor, Pampanga, may be held liable for violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 also known as “The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”.
“Mayor Lacson surreptitiously sold the 4,038 pigs at an alleged public auction in the amount of P7 million to the lone bidder, Mayor Hizon. The auction was held without consulting us and without any legal basis. We only discovered the sale when it appeared in online news,” Lapeña explained.
Also sued were respondents Raisa Bayani, Adela Tanhueco, Jesus Nathaniel Pili, Ryan Miranda, and Milagro Suing, all officers of the Municipality of Magalang, Pampanga and members of the auction committee who conducted the bidding; and Marcial Alfaro, Barangay Chairman of Barangay San Ildefonso, Magalang, Pampanga.
On Sept. 7, 2016, combined elements of PDEA Regional Office-National Capital Region (PDEA RO-NCR) under Director Wilkins Villanueva and local police implemented a lawful search in Jewang Farm, a piggery in Barangay San Ildefonso, Magalang, Pampanga which resulted in the discovery of a clandestine shabu laboratory and more than 4,000 pigs and the seizure of dangerous drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPECs), and the arrest of seven Chinese nationals.
Two days after the implementation of the search warrant, it was found out that Alfaro brought a letter to Mayor Lacson informing her that many pigs have already died, while the others were left unattended.
In response to the letter, Mayor Lacson summoned the Sangguniang Bayan of Magalang, Pampanga in a special session to address the issue.
“PDEA was never informed, notified and invited about the special session where they discussed to resolve the disposal of the pigs,” Lapeña said.
During the session, Alfaro said that there were reported deaths of 120 pigs. Also discussed were possible health issues which may arise from these deaths and possibly more if the other pigs were left abandoned.
A resolution was issued thereafter authorizing Mayor Lacson to carry out necessary measures to safeguard the well-being of her constituents.
However, conflicting conclusions made by Dr. Suzette Yalung, Municipal Health Officer of Magalang, Pampanga, and Dr. Karen Chel Santos, a Veterinarian from Pampanga State Agricultural University, were disclosed. Yalung was requesting for the immediate disposal of all the pigs, while Santos concluded that the animals in the farm generally still have good body condition because they can still tolerate few days of lack of feeds.
Yalung also issued a certification on Oct. 18, 2016 stating that she was not able to see dead pigs in the pig pens during an ocular inspection, contrary to the statement of Alfaro that there were already 120 dead pigs.
Mayor Lacson then issued an executive order to form an auction committee to supervise the selling of the entire hogs. The auction was done on September 12, 2016. Surprisingly, only one interested participant in the person of Bacolor Mayor Hizon, representing his family-owned Pampanga’s Best Food Corporation, appeared for the auction. Mayor Hizon in a letter offered P7 million which Mayor Lacson accepted the same day.
Mayor Hizon paid the said amount in the form of a check. The Municipality of Magalang, Pampanga issued its own official receipt.
“The issuance of the official receipt is questionable because in the first place, the pigs are not owned by the municipality, but by a private individual. Also, there was no effort from them to locate and/or notify the true and lawful owner of the farm,” Lapeña said.
Lapeña said that none of the functions of the Auction Committee was followed. “No chairman was appointed, no minutes were ever taken and no auction report was prepared. They conducted the auction following no specific set of rules and procedure and no recommendation made as to the mode of disposal as appropriate. They never even set the minimum bid price for the pigs,” he noted, adding that the committee did not conduct an ocular inspection of the pigs to assess their physical condition.
Villanueva, in his sworn affidavit said that the hogs will be used as part of pieces of evidence against the Chinese nationals who used the pig farm to mask the fully-equipped underground shabu laboratory. Moreover, the hogs should be considered as properties or proceeds derived from the manufacture of dangerous drugs.
“During the pendency of the case in the court, no property, or income derived therefrom, which may be confiscated and forfeited, shall be disposed, alienated or transferred and the same shall be in custodia legis and no bond shall be admitted for the release of the same. This is clear in Section 20 of RA 9165, or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” he said.
“The bidding was done in bad faith and the respondents have manifested partiality in the discharge of their official functions. They fell short of the standards of high moral conduct, which they are bound to maintain as public servants. We are submitting that a preventive suspension be issued against them considering that the evidence of guilt is strong and their continued stay in their respective offices may prejudice the case filed against them,” Lapeña said. PNA-northboundasia.com