Friday, September 28, 2012

Ex-Narcotics Spy Chief Admits 'Rosebud' Link

August 30, 2001, Inquirer, Ex-narcotics spy chief admits 'Rosebud' link,
Posted:1:56 AM (Manila Time)
By and Christine Avendaño, Inquirer News Service

POLICE Superintendent John Campos confirmed on Wednesay night he had "motivated' and "used' civilian agent Mary Ong, alias Rosebud, from 1996 to 1999 to infiltrate drug syndicate based in Hong Kong and mainland China but maintained it was part of his duty then as intelligence chief of the Narcotics Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Appearing on GMA-7 television hours after Ong revealed to the Senate her participation with PNP top officials in alleged illegal drug trade, Campos said Ong had financial problems that may be the reason for her allegations. "Her properties are being foreclosed," he said. "I am speculating but I know there is (money involved)."

Campos, who is assigned to the Southern Tagalog region, also promised to reveal to the Senate what he alleged to be involvement of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in illegal drug trade, which he said was "destroying the PNP organization."

"I have everything. The ISAFP is involved in drug trafficking. I have documents," he said, adding that he would ask for a closed-door session with the Senate committees investigating the allegations, because he did not want to engage in "mudslinging, which is what they are doing now."

Testifying at a Senate hearing, Ong said the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized-Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), headed by Senator Panfilo Lacson, launched a drug "buy-bust" operation code-named Oplan Athena in 1998 to crack into the criminal syndicate, Hong kong Triad.

She said the operation turned into a money-making venture by top police officers with the help of the so-called "Binondo Central Bank", an underground dollar trading group based in Manila's Chinatown.

Ong said she posed as a buyer of illegal drugs under Oplan Athena in October that year, and stressed that Athena had the blessings of Lacson as PAOCTF head.

She added Oplan Athena was run by police chief superintendent Reynaldo Acop, superintendent Francisco Villaroman, Campos, and a network of other police officers.

Acop also confirmed Ong's participation in Oplan Athena in a separate interview but said they decided to "isolate" her on suspicions she was a Triad agent who had penetrated the PAOCTF.

Ong said that about 24 billion pesos (469 million dollars) of the estimated annual 96-billion-peso (1.9-billion-dollar) drug trade in the Philippines went to the Triad.

Ong said she and Campos went to Hong Kong in 1998 to order deliveries of shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride from the Triad.

She said she and Campos purchased 180 kilograms of the illegal drug in a span of three weeks.

Ong was the only witness of the ISAFP who testified Wednesday in the continuing inquiry into allegations that Lacson was involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and money-laundering activities.

In the three-hour-long hearing, Ong, dressed in a bright pink Chinese silk jacket, testified calmly on how she and anti-narcotics officers bought illegal drugs from the Hong Kong Triad and then allegedly sold the drugs to others, including suspected Chinese drug dealers detained in Camp Crame.

Ong said she turned state-witness last year against Lacson because the Triad was going after her, because police officers who bought drugs directly from the Triad failed to make the payments.

"I want to stay alive. I'm on their termination list. I had to tell the truth to keep myself alive," she told senators.

Campos said he met Ong as an informant of the Hong Kong police. "It was an information swap agreement," he said. "They gave Mary Ong to me. I was trying to exploit her. She gave me a lot but it was not enough."

He said Ong was his informant for four years. "Being an agent handler, I motivate people to work in accordance with what we want to get," he said. He described Ong as "hard to control".

About 50 Triad groups, many of them minor gangs of young thugs, are active in Hong Kong, according to a Hong Kong government website on law enforcement.

The website identifies several larger groups, including the "14K" Triad, which ISAFP chief Corpus has linked to Lacson's friend and alleged drug lord Kim Wong. The 14K is also said to be a major source of illegal drugs for the Philippines.

Ong said many in the Philippines were connected with the Triad and identified Wong, who was in the Senate session hall, as one of them.

Ong saod one of the Triad bosses, a Mr. Lee, was Wong's friend. "I don't know whether (Wong) works for the Triad. I know he is dealing (drugs) with the Triad," she said, adding, however, that she had had no drug dealings with Wong in the Philippines.

Ong said she had not included allegations against Wong in an affidavit she submitted to the Senate because she would also have to include the names of police generals.

Local militants hailed Ong’s testimony, saying her "blossoming’’ exposé should give the Senate solid ground to pursue its investigation into Lacson’s alleged illegal activities.

"The testimony of Mary Ong is not hard to believe," said Wilson Fortaleza, president of the activist group Sanlakas, in a press statement. "With evil incarnate at the helm of the Philippine National Police, Camp Crame (national police headquarters) could very well be the not-so-hidden hideout of the country's largest drug syndicate."

Sanlakas called for the creation of an independent commission to look into the extent of corruption in government.

Senator Robert Barbers, chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs, said the senators would continue the inquiry, and scheduled Monday as the next hearing.

Barbers also said the two-week recess of Congress starting Sept. 7 would give the National Bureau of Investigation and the justice department sufficient time to secure confirmation of bank accounts reportedly held by Lacson abroad.

Barbers said that according to Department of Justice officials, the confirmation from the US Federal Bureau of investigation was expected to come "anytime now." With a report from Andrea Trinidad-Echavez

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