MANILA, Philippines – A Mexican national believed to be an official of the Sinaloa drug cartel claimed on Tuesday, January 27, anti-narcotics agents arrested him after he refused to pay P7 million in exchange for his release.
The suspect, Horacio Herera, denied involvement with the Sinaloa drug cartel when he appeared before the second preliminary investigation (PI) of his illegal drug case before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Both the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police Anti Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (PNP-AIDSOTF) said Herera was “number three or four in the [Sinaloa] cartel’s hierarchy.”
The Sinaloa drug cartel is the world’s most powerful drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime ring that operates in the United States, Australia, Europe, West Africa, the Philippines, and other Asian countries.
The existence of Latin America’s Sinaloa drug cartel in the Philippines, was confirmed in 2013 following a raid in Lipa City, which yielded more than a half-billion pesos worth of illegal drugs.
‘Here for business’
Herera submitted to Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera a 7-page counter-affidavit, saying “there was no valid arrest” against him “but only acts of robbery, kidnapping, and extortion.”
He said in his counter-affidavit: “There was a violation of my right against unreasonable search and seizure. The arresting officer has no probable cause to search my person nor any personal knowledge that I have committed, is actually committing, or attempting to commit a crime to warrant my arrest.”
Contrary to the allegations of the authorities, Herera said, he arrived in the Philippines on October 28, 2013, to establish an Air Water business and a restaurant.
He claimed a Filipina named Sarah Nazareno offered to help him set up the purpose of his visit to the Philippines. She also introduced him to two Chinese nationals and another Filipina.
He claimed that the two Chinese nationals tried to sway him to bring “ice” (shabu) to the country but he turned it down.
Sarah then met Herera again on February 2014, telling him she would introduce him to another Filipino who would help him import products related to his business.
“However, the said person who introduced himself as a customs officer would ask the same offer as the two Chinese guys I met. I did not agree nor did I show my disgust or discomfort as I am a mere visitor in this country,” the respondent said.
On January 9, 2015, Sarah texted him if he wanted to have coffee at Rockwell the following day and he agreed to see her. It was during their meeting that Sarah introduced him to her friend named Mike. He said that both Sarah and Mike talked about a business deal involving huge amount of dollars.
Before they parted ways, Sarah said she would be needing him in a deal the following day at a hotel near his place because she needed him to determine if the dollars were genuine. He did what he was told and went to the agreed hotel at Makati Avenue.
Gov’t agents asked to explain
In the hotel room, the Mexican national said Mike and Sarah asked him to count a bundle of $100 bills. Soon after handing the dollar bills, Herera added that Mike told Sarah to go down the parking area to see Mike’s driver.
As he was to lock the door after Sarah left the room, Herera recalled seeing 10 men barging inside the hotel room and he first thought that the armed men where there to rob Mike.
The armed men, according to Herera, pinned him to the floor, then took the money and handcuffed him. Herera recalled one of the men telling him, “You will be free if you give us P7 million ($159,000),” while another one told him to “just give the money.”
He added that another man told him: “The other guy and the girl already paid P7 million. They already went home.”
Herera was arrested January 10 by anti-narcotics agents of PDEA and PNP-AIDSOTF during a buy-bust operation in Makati City. The arrest came following a P12-million sale of cocaine to undercover agents of the AIDSOTF in front of a hotel along Makati Avenue.
Assistant State Proesecutor Navera asked the PNP and PDEA to submit their respective replies to Herera’s counter-affidavit on February 12.
Herera is in violation of Section 5, Article II of the Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) before the DOJ. – Rappler.com
US$1 = P44