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Charges files yesterday: NBI chief, town mayor, more implicated in Virac shabu lab

By RHAYDZ B. BARCIA LEGAZPI CITY --- After almost a year following the discovery of the large shabu laboratory in Catanduanes, the Philippine National Police in Bicol finally filed charges against prominent personalities allegedly involved in illegal drug trade. Superintent Ramon Melvin Buenafe, PNP Bicol regional director, personally flew to Catanduanes yesterday (July 5) to lead the filing of the case in the local court against persons allegedly involved in illegal drug. They are the following: NBI director Atty. Augusto Eric C. Isidoro alias “Tay Eric”; Atty Ulpiano Sarmiento; Raymond Lee, Jardin Brian B. Wong, aka Bobong Wong; Joseph Al Randie B. Wong alias Tiptip Wong; Constantino Huit Cordial, Jr; Snooky Imperial alias Mr Lee; Allan Ang Hung; Xian Xian Wang; Pido Bonito; Noel Sampag, alias Bert; and Angelica Balmadrid Isidoro—common law wife of Atty. Augusto Eric C. Isidoro. The suspects were tagged as conspirators of the biggest shabu drug trade in Catandaunes province. Director Isidoro has been assigned in Mindanao while Cordial was a former mayor of Caramoan, Camarines Sur. Other persons included in the charge sheet were Paulo Uy, Jayson Gonzales Uy, Paolo Wee Palison, Lorenzo Flores Pinera alias Kidot, Phung Yuan Estorco, Sheng Wang Tore, Ruel Samonte, Dennes Samonte, and John and Peter Does. It may be recalled that on November 26, 2016, operatives of PNP Bicol uncovered the biggest shabu laboratory in Barangay Palta Small, in Virac, Catanduanes. The laboratory was allegedly situated within the property of Angelica Balmadrid, reportedly the common-law wife of NBI Director Eric Isidoro. Isidoro was head of the NBI’s anti-drug unit during the time of then Justice Secretary and now Senator (detained) Leila de Lima. The warehouse is leased to a certain Jason Uy, alias “Paulo Uy,” reportedly a Chinese, reports claimed. Found inside the shabu laboratory at the time of the raid were six hydrogenators, 329 kilos of ephedrine hydrochloride and other materials for making shabu. It was said to be the biggest shabu factory clandestinely operating in the region which was discovered at the time that the government’s anti-drug campaign was intensified under the then newly-elected President Rodrigo Duterte. Chief Supt. Buenafe has earlier filed charges against Lawrence Flores Pinera, caretaker of the shabu facility in Virac, Catanduanes for violation of Republic Act 9165. At that time, incumbent Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua was implicated by his political rivals behind the operations of the shabu laboratory. Cua denied the allegation. Following the shabu lab’s discovery that caught national attention, the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs headed by Rep. Ace Barbers conducted a legislative inquiry that looked into the alleged involvement of local officials in the illegal drug trade. The House probe was conducted at the Catanduanes State University auditorium after Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, chairman of the committee on transportation and telecommunication, filed a bill to look into the drug trade operation in his province. Cua, who was also earlier implicated in the drug trade by his political opponents in 2004, was not invited by the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs to the inquiry. Cua said that Sarmiento was his campaign manager in 2004 when he ran for public office but lost to former Gov. Leandro Verceles. Cua said it was Verceles who implicated him in the drug trade to ruin his name and political career. Due to this, Cua had asked the NBI to conduct an independent probe of the alleged presence of a shabu laboratory on the island to ferret out the truth. Now that the case was filed against the suspects, Cua said his name was finally cleared over the nasty allegations that he was into illegal drug trade in the province, including the operation of the shabu laboratory that was incidentally uncovered under his term.

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