Drug syndicate member nabbed in SoCot

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Joint operatives arrested an alleged member of a major drug group operating in parts of Region 12 in an operation on Sunday in nearby Koronadal City in South Cotabato.

Gil Cesario Castro, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Region 12 director, identified the suspect as businessman Ruel Espinosa alias Balong, 54, who was listed as a high value drug dealer.

He said the suspect is a member of the El Patron Drug Group, which operates in Koronadal City and nearby cities and municipalities in Region 12.

Castro said Espinosa was arrested following a search operation at around 6:15 a.m. at the rice mill in Purok Kaunlaran, Barangay Sto. Nino in Koronadal City.

The raiding team was composed of elements from PDEA-12, Joint Task Force GenSan and the Police Regional Office 12’s Special Action Force.

He said they recovered during the raid some 100 grams of suspected metamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu with an estimated value of P500,000, a digital weighing scale, a rifle grenade, a para ordnance caliber .45 handgun and a hi-cap cal. 45 magazine with 12 rounds live ammunition.

Castro said they launched another search at around 7:50 a.m. at the suspects residence at Block 2, Callejo Subdivision in Barangay General Paulino Santos that yielded two M4 rifles with 30 rounds of live ammunition, a caliber .22 airgun rifle and an aluminum container with airgun ammunition.

The operatives also searched a house at a farm owned by the suspects farm but did not find any illegal item. The official said they have long been monitoring the movements of the suspect, who is allegedly linked to other drug groups in other parts of the country.

He uses his businesses as conduit of the illegal drug trade in the area, Castro said in a statement on Monday.In an interview with reporters, Espinosa denied any involvement in the El Patron Drug Group.

The suspect admitted that he owned several firearms but noted that they were all licensed.

Castro said Espinosa will be charged with violation of Section 11 or possession of dangerous drugs, under Article II of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Additional charges for violation of RA 10591 or illegal possession of firearms and ammunition would also be filed against the suspect, he said.

“In the coming days, we will escalate the drug war with focus on drug lords in our region,” Castro said.

Also known as Soccsksargen, Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato, and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

In the past several months, police and the PDEA-12 dismantled several drug groups operating in Sarangani, South Cotabato and North Cotabato. AVE/

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