Thursday | July 6, 2017
She is accused of being a big-time drug personality in Badian town in southwestern Cebu. And her four bank books with transactions involving millions of pesos seem to show why.
Her lifestyle — that of a woman who suddenly got rich at about the same time her husband was serving a jail term at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) for a kidnapping case — also drove police and anti-narcotics agents to watch her closely for possible illegal drug trade activities.
The woman, Epifania Alvizo, who also happened to be a barangay captain, and her alleged cohort Ronan Librando were arrested as packs of suspected shabu worth more than P2 million were seized from them in separate buy-bust operations conducted by agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7) early morning yesterday.
It needed three months of surveillance before PDEA-7’s repeated attempts to arrest Alvizo, village chief of Badian’s Barangay Malabago, and Librando materialized.
The two did not resist arrest.
“We have been receiving reports about her (Alvizo) alleged involvement in illegal drug activities. There had been attempts to catch her, but because of the distance, it didn’t materialize right away,” said PDEA-7 Regional Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz yesterday.
Alvizo and Librando were brought yesterday under tight security from Badian to Cebu City, a distance of 97.6 kilometers. They are now detained at the PDEA-7 headquarters in Barangay Sudlon, Cebu City, while awaiting for the filing of charges against them.
The two suspects were not presented to the media yesterday pending the completion of tactical interrogation.
Ruiz said the PDEA-7 is looking at a possibility that Alvizo has been getting her supply of illegal drugs from the NBP, where her husband Marieto is jailed for the 1998 kidnapping of Cebuano businessman Regan King.
“There are indications that their supplier is in Bilibid. We will conduct further investigation to find that out,” said Ruiz.
Senior Insp. Bonifacio Pareja, the police chief of Badian, said ever since Alvizo’s husband was sent to the NBP, the barangay captain and her family suddenly became wealthy and were not shy about flaunting it.
According to Pareja, the village chief was able to build a “very well-maintained” bungalow-type house and has at least three cars.
“Nahulog bitaw na nga komedya diri nga maayo pa diay nga mapriso sa Bilibid kay mo-asenso man,” Pareja was quoted as saying in an interview over dyLA.
(It has even become a joke here in Badian that it’s better to be jailed at the Bilibid because one can end up rich.)
Aside from the sudden wealthy lifestyle, Pareja said Epifania and her son were even able to get into politics, with the mother being chosen as the village chief of Malabago while her son, Kempee, is now a councilman of the same barangay.
Ruiz said that so far, they and the police have no idea what other source of income Alvizo has aside from her being a barangay captain.
“What we know for now is she just gets her income from her job as barangay captain,” he said.
First to fall was the 46-year-old Librando, who was arrested around 4:30 a.m. in Sitio Cabil-isan, Barangay Banhigan. A poseur-buyer transacted with Librando, who agreed to sell a pack of shabu worth P1,000. The transaction happened in Librando’s house.
When the money and shabu changed hands, PDEA-7 operatives moved in and arrested the man.
Ruiz said two packs of shabu with an estimated market value of P601,000 were seized from the suspect.
An hour and a half later, a separate team of PDEA-7 agents arrested Alvizo in her house.
Alvizo, 52, was arrested after selling a pack of shabu worth P150,000 to a PDEA-7 agent, who acted as a buyer, said Ruiz.
The Badian police, which took part in the raid, searched the village chief’s house and found a big pack believed to contain shabu worth P1.5 million.
Also recovered in the house were three ATM cards and four bank books.
“Based on the transactions in the bank books, Alvizo is part of a big-time drug syndicate. And based on the information that we got, the illegal activities have been going on for a long time,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz declined to say the exact amounts in her bank accounts, but he said they ran into millions of pesos.
Ruiz said Librando is one of Alvizo’s alleged drug pushers.
As a big-time drug personality, Alvizo got illegal drugs straight from the supplier and distributed them to her pushers, said Ruiz.
Ruiz described Alvizo as a level 2 drug pusher capable of selling at least 1 kilo of shabu a week.
Most of the suspect’s customers are habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) drivers.
“We will subject her cellular phones in (sic) a forensic examination to identify the people she has been communicating with,” said Ruiz.
Lawyer Innocencio de la Cerna, Librando’s legal counsel, is checking the manner of arrest.
“What is important at this point in time is to inform and protect the custodial rights of my client. My team will thereafter prepare the best defense possible (for) the case (that) our client is facing. We will also study the circumstance that resulted in his arrest, and if we find anything not in consonance with due process, we will take that issue in court,” De La Cerna told Cebu Daily News.
Ruiz said Alvizo’s arrest is part of PDEA-7’s campaign to track down government officials who are involved in illegal drug activities.
“There are still several suspected narco-politicians in our list, and one by one, we will catch them,” said Ruiz.
Ruiz said government officials who are engaged in illegal drug activity are guilty of “the highest form of treachery.”
“I am warning them that their illegal activities will not do good to them. It’s better for them to surrender because if they choose to fight back, it will be the end of the road for them,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said that with the arrest of Alvizo, her cohorts are expected to lay low.
“That’s their style. When a big-time drug personality is arrested, they will stop for a while but will resume later on,” said Ruiz.
Cebu Daily News tried to contact Badian Mayor Carmencita Lumain, but she could not be reached for comment on the involvement of one of her village chiefs in the illegal drugs trade.
But Badian Councilor Mark Andrew Jorolan lauded the PDEA-7 and the police for arresting Alvizo.
“We commend the personnel of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in coordination with our local police station for their successful anti-drug operation in the municipality. We are one with the administration’s all-out drive against illegal drug. We will let the law take its course,” he said in a Messenger chat to Cebu Daily News.