7 nabbed, P20M MJ seized

AGENTS of the Cordillera Police Regional Office on Saturday arrested seven persons including an Army reservist for attempting to smuggle nearly P20 million worth of dried marijuana leaves in Bontoc, Mountain Province, Cordillera police director, Brigadier General R’win S. Pagkalinawan announced yesterday.

In a report to Philippine National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, the official said that the 1st operation resulted in the arrest of four suspects and the seizure of 109 kilograms of cannabis bricks while the 2nd led in the arrest of three others and the recovery of 27 kilograms of the prohibited crops.

According to Pagkalinawan, the first four suspects were intercepted while on board a black Chevrolet with conduction sticker AAF 5941 along the national road in Sitio Pakil, Lower Caluttit, Bonton, Mountain Province at 9:30 p.m. last Saturday. A 7-year old child was also found inside the vehicle.

The suspects  were identified as 35-year old Army reservist Joseph Petilona, Mark Kevin Guzman, 21, Niño Acio, 25, and an 18-year old female. Petilona, Acio and the teenager were all residents of Angeles City while Guzman is from Quezon City.

Recovered inside the suspects’ vehicle were 109 dried marijuana bricks and 36 compressed cannabis in tubular form, all weighing around 134 kilograms and with a market value of P16.080 million.

Petilona also yielded a holstered 9mm Czech Republic semi-automatic pistol with two magazines containing 20 live ammunition during an inspection. The firearm had a Letter Order No. 605 issued by one Major Brendo Maglasang, said to be the director of the Army’s Reserve Command’s  3rd RDCDG last March 20 and four mobile phones.

An hour-and-a-half later, another group of policemen arrested the three other suspects identified as Jean-Jerald Escanillas, 22, Princess Diana Kling, 21, and Vincent Santos, 20, all residents of Angeles City along the national road in Sitio Lagcangeo, Bontoc Ili, Bontoc.

A 4th suspect identified as Ryan Joe Corupin, also a resident of Angeles City, managed to escape.

Confiscated from the suspects were some 27 kilograms of dried marijuana bricks and tubular marijuana fruiting tops worth around P3.3 million.

Pagkalinawan said that members of the Mountain Province Police Provincial Office under Colonel Homer Penecilla set up checkpoints in the area amid an information that a group of strangers would try to smuggle a huge volume of marijuana to Central Luzon over the weekend.

The official commended the officers led by  Lieutenant Col. Crisante Sadino, Majors Jaime Bang-I and Bernard Wong and Captain Gilbert Bulalit and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency officers led by Intelligence Agent Edwin Changrapen for making the arrest and huge marijuana seizure.

The arrested suspects will be facing non-bailable offense to transporting dangerous drugs under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. Pagkalinawan also ordered an investigation into the authenticity of the Army Letter Order presented by Petilona.