By Camcer Ordonez Imam
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A provincial board member of Lanao del Sur and a city councilor of Marawi City were among a family of four that were arrested in an operation by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Iligan City, Wednesday.
Arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest were Hussien Magandia, a provincial board member of Lanao del Sur; his wife Norhaimah and their son Aktar. Also apprehended was the couple’s son-in-law Amin Dimal, a city councilor in Marawi City.
Confiscated from the suspects were half a kilo of suspected shabu worth P3.4 million, a Smith and Wesson .38 caliber pistol, several live bullets, electronic gadgets, various documents, bank records, and rolls of aluminum foil.
The raiding team was composed of operatives from PDEA-Northern Mindanao headed by IA5 Benjamin Recites, PDEA-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Regional Director Juvenal Azurin, along with the agency’s Special Enforcement Service from Manila.
“So far, they are the biggest narco-politicians [we have] arrested,” Azurin said during the press conference at the PDEA-10 regional office, where the suspects were detained, Wednesday afternoon.
The suspects belong to the “Iwaram Drug Group”, whose illegal drug transactions are believed to be emanating from inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, Azurin said.
Azurin, however, did not name the person responsible for supplying the illegal drugs to the suspects but said that the supplier is a high-level inmate.
From Bilibid, the meth substance is then taken to Lanao del Sur, he added.
Azurin said the arrested elected officials were not on President Rodrigo Duterte’s original drug matrix since it took PDEA some time to verify the suspects’ involvement in the illegal drug trade.
“We were very careful in conducting the validation considering the fact that these personalities are prominent,” Azurin said, adding that they spent several months conducting validation, surveillance and intelligence gathering before carrying out the search operation.
Azurin also confirmed that Norhaimah is the first cousin of arrested drug queen, Johaira (a.k.a. Marimar) Macabuat, the former mayor of Maguing town in Lanao del Sur.
He said the suspects, considered by PDEA as distributors, used to operate in Lanao del Sur and some parts of Lanao del Norte prior to their arrest.
From these provinces, they distributed the illegal substance to a network of runners and pushers who sell the illegal substance to other areas in Mindanao.
Azurin said they are also monitoring other distributors who fled Marawi after the siege and are now operating outside the devastated city.
Azurin said the suspects operate a few legitimate businesses based in Iligan City, like a car wash, rice mill, and rice trading, which they use as fronts in dealing illegal drugs.
Azurin said PDEA will be looking into the notebooks and bank documents seized from the suspects and use these for its financial investigation.
As of this writing, the suspects were detained at the PDEA-10 detention cell awaiting the filing of formal charges.