Complaint filed vs. ex-Cong. CS for “protecting” shabu laboratory

The Virac municipal police station has filed a complaint for conspiracy to manufacture dangerous drugs against former Congressman Cesar V. Sarmiento for allegedly receiving protection money during the operation of the shabu laboratory in Palta Small in 2016.

IN THE HOT SEAT ONCE AGAIN, shabu lab star witness Ernesto “Entoy” Tabor Jr. explains his allegations against former Cong. Cesar Sarmiento before the media, some of whom doubted its veracity. The witness had not mentioned the alleged involvement of the solon during his first sworn affidavit that was used as basis for the case against NBI official Atty. Eric Isidoro and the other accused in the case now pending at Makati RTC. Last January, Tabor completed his direct testimony before the Court and was subsequently cross-examined by defense lawyers, reportedly impressing prosecutors and the judge of his detailed recall of events.

Police chief Maj. Bon Billy Timuat and controversial shabu lab star witness Ernesto “Entoy” Tabor Jr. were the complainants in the case for violation of Sec. 8, Article II of Republic Act 9165 filed for preliminary investigation before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last Feb. 27, 2020  They were assisted by the PNP Regional Legal Office 5.

The crime of conspiracy to manufacture dangerous drugs and essential chemicals was allegedly committed from April to November 2016 at the shabu lab site, the solon’s residence in Igang and at ARDCI Hotel. This latest twist in the three-year old saga comes 10 months after Sarmiento lost his bid for the governorship against then suspended Governor Joseph C. Cua.

A copy of the complaint showed that former police asset and drug pusher Tabor lately revealed to Timuat that he (Tabor) wants to uncover the participation of Sarmiento, who acted in conspiracy with former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regional director Atty. Eric Augusto C. Isidoro and had actual knowledge and participation in the establishment of and manufacture of drugs in the shabu lab.

In his sworn affidavit, Tabor claimed that he intentionally skipped mentioning Sarmiento’s name due to fear for his life and that of his loved ones.

“(He) is publicly known in Catanduanes as a very influential figure in the government and most feared even by his political rivals because of his array of network in the police and national government,” Tabor stated.

The solon flaunted his political prowess when he brought some of the congressmen to Virac and manipulated the congressional investigation of the shabu lab and severely chastised the police operatives while his friend, Atty. Isidoro, was never called in the investigation or grilled regarding his participation, he added.

“My conscience is still revolting that Congressman Sarmiento is not paying for his crime and is still going scot-free,” the complainant said.

He also alleged that Tay Eric had expressed concern that the shabu lab must be protected and that such concern must be relayed to then Cong. Sarmiento.

Sometime in April 2016, Tabor recalled, he and Tay Eric boarded an SUV owned by his wife and went to the Sarmiento residence in Igang where he (Tabor) heard the NBI official appealing to the congressman for protection and promising support for the his reelection bid.

After the meeting, he said, Tay Eric directed him to keep intact a one-week collection from the drug trade and set aside P5 million, with the balance given as subsistence allowance of shabu lab in-charge Paulo Uy.In the last week of April, Isidoro arrived and checked in at ARDCI, where Tabor brought the P5 million inside a black traveling bag. Into the same bag, the NBI official dropped another P5 million in cash.

At 6:30 A.M. that day, he and Tay Eric boarded the SUV towards the Igang residence of the congressman, where the gate was opened by a house boy.

They were allegedly met by the congressman who led them to the receiving area that has glass sliding doors.

While Tabor was standing about 1.5 meters from where Isidoro and the congressman were sitting, Tay Eric gestured to him to put the black bag in the chair next to the latter, with the words: “Cong. 10M tabi ini. Iyo an kolekta ta na imo hale sa drug laboratory sa Palta Small.”

“Ah ok,” Sarmiento allegedly replied and asked Tay Eric, “Kumusta man ang laboratory nita, safe man?”

The NBI official nodded and explained, “Eu, safe man ta dae man naheheling sa kalsada buda banggi man galuto.”

The congressman sighed in relief, stood up and took the bag to the adjacent bedroom where he stayed for a while, Tabor claimed.

When Sarmiento came out, Tay Eric said they would not be staying any longer, to which the congressman allegedly replied, “Ah ok sige, ako na ang bahala.”

The shabu lab witness also claimed that in August 2016, he and Tay Eric went back to the residence and again remitted P10 million to Sarmiento, who cautioned them to be extra careful because he heard that Larry Que was making noise that he would divulge the location of the lab to the media.

When Que was shot to death in December that year, Tabor said he was engulfed with so much fear and panic.

“I know sooner or later I will also be a target of liquidation of these people involved in the manufacture of dangerous drugs and I have to speak the truth in order to cleanse my conscience,” he stressed.

In recommending that criminal information be filed against Sarmiento, Maj. Timuat said in the complain that it is crystal clear that the former congressman benefited from the proceeds of the drugs manufactured in the shabu laboratory and had in fact acted in conspiracy with Atty. Isidoro.

During the press conference at Camp Camacho last March 11, 2020, Catanduanes police provincial director Col. Paul F. Abay, flanked by Maj. Timuat and Provincial Community Affairs Development (PCAD) in-charge Maj. Danilo Tenerife, described the filing of the case as proof of the PNP’s commitment to go against illegal drugs personalities big and small as part of its relentless pursuit of a drug-free Bicol region.

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