MANILA, Philippines-A woman allegedly involved in illegal drug trafficking has ties to two of the police officers-Senior Insp. Oliver Villanueva and dismissed Insp. Marco Polo Estrera-involved in the robbery-abduction incident on Edsa on Sept. 1, said a former officer of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
The woman is a certain Norminda Galo, who operates in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Lanao del Sur, according to the Inquirer source.
"She is their contact. She provides the information on whom to extort from and abduct, and the team of rogue police officers carry out the mission disguised as a police operation," said the former PDEA officer, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified in the meantime.
He said that when he learned that there was a woman involved in the Edsa robbery and abduction, he was certain that the woman was none other than Galo.
"It's their usual modus operandi and they haven't stopped," the former PDEA officer said.
Could the woman be the same woman who last spoke with Samanodin Abdul Gafur, one of two men in the white Fortuner that was waylaid and commandeered to the La Loma Police Station in Quezon City?
Jinkee Dimaporo, lawyer for Gafur and Camal Mama, said Amira Salik was the name of the woman given by Gafur.
"But Ustadz is not sure if that is indeed her real name. He added that the woman was with a younger person who was his former neighbour in Lanao del Sur," Dimaporo told the Inquirer.
Enough info on officers
The source told the Inquirer that the PDEA had enough information linking Galo to Villanueva and Estrera.
"I don't know if Galo is using another name. But if the victims mentioned Amira Salik, I'm sure that she has a connection to Galo because Estrera and Villanueva's group would not know who the target would be without a go signal from Galo. That's how they operate," he said.
The Eastern Police District (EPD) head, Chief Supt. Abelardo Villacorta, said the district had yet to ascertain the real identity of the woman, noting that given the circumstances of the case, she was considered a suspect.
Negotiation at fast food
"We don't know her real identity but she had a big role in what happened that day," Villacorta said.
In October of 2006, the PDEA intercepted and caught the team of Estrera negotiating for the release of six suspected drug pushers at a Jollibee branch on Banawe Street in Quezon City.
Estrera's group claimed then that it was a legitimate operation but was not able to justify to the then PDEA Director Dionisio Santiago why it brought the suspects to a Jollibee branch rather than to headquarters.
Administrative cases were filed against Estrera and four other police officers.
The case against the suspected drug pushers were later dismissed by a Quezon City court for technical reasons related to the proof of possession and ownership of the 175 grams of "shabu" presented as evidence against the suspects.
Villanueva was supposed to be part of that team but was unable to join them that night when the suspected pushers were taken from Bulacan and Pampanga.
Hogtied in trunk
"I was angry at the time because we caught them negotiating the release of those they had arrested for P100,000 each, while the [suspected drug pushers] were kept hogtied in the trunk of the vehicles the group used," Santiago told the Inquirer.
Santiago added that as early as 2006, the PDEA had already been able to establish the connection of some members of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Class of 2001 to kidnapping and robbery extortion activities, Estrera and Villanueva among them.
After that incident in October 2006, PDEA intelligence operatives did surveillance operations to find out more about how the group operated and that was when the agency found out the group of rogue cops' connection to Galo.
CHR police escorts
Galo was the subject of a surveillance operation of the PDEA but the agency was prevented from pursuing its intelligence operation on Galo when the woman sought the assistance of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 2009.
Galo was provided police escorts thereafter, some of whom were members of the PNPA Class of 2001 who held positions then in the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force.
"It would appear that after the Mandaluyong incident was exposed the gang belonging to the PNPA Class of 2001 continued with its illegal activities. We exposed it then and it was exposed recently by a brave commuter whose photo of the incident led to the identification of the group behind the brazen robbery-abduction," Santiago said.
He said he was not making a sweeping statement against the PNPA Class of 2001 but based it on his previous experience and encounter with the group.
Same modus operandi
"There are other members of the same class caught employing the same modus operandi-robbery-abduction and extortion disguised as a legitimate police operation. Prove me wrong, I would be gladly proven wrong," he said.
Ten police officers were identified as those responsible in the robbery-abduction on Sept. 1.
Three are now in police custody-Chief Insp. Joseph de Vera, deputy commander of the La Loma police station in Quezon City; PO2 Jonathan Rodriguez; and Senior Insp. Allan Emlano of the Caloocan Police.
Still at large are Villanueva, Estrera, SPO1 Ramil Hachero, PO2 Weavin Masa, PO2 Mark de Paz, PO2 Jerome Datinguinoo and PO2 Ebonn Decatoria.