In cahoots? PDEA chief explains photo with fired drug-linked agents

MANILA, Philippines – He was there acting in good faith, he said.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino explained on Monday, December 3, the controversial photo of him and fired law enforcers now linked to illegal drugs.

Flashed before the Senate session hall for mere seconds, the photo shows Aquino sharing a light moment with sacked PDEA deputy chief Ismael Fajardo and dismissed police colonel Eduardo Acierto. A colorful birthday banner looms in the background.

According to Aquino, the leaked photograph showed the birthday party of Fajardo on September 3, just weeks after PDEA intercepted P2.4 billion worth of shabu (amethamphetamine) at the Manila International Container Port, and magnetic lifters they have suspected to be former containers of up to P11-billion shabu.

Acierto has since then been accused of being behind both shipments, while Fajardo is suspected to have had advance knowledge about the P2.4-billion shabu shipment but decided not to share it with his colleagues.

ON THE DEFENSIVE. PDEA chief Aaron Aquino during the last Senate blue ribbon committee hearing into the missing P11-billion shabu on Monday, December 3. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

ON THE DEFENSIVE. PDEA chief Aaron Aquino during the last Senate blue ribbon committee hearing into the missing P11-billion shabu on Monday, December 3.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Aquino explained that when he attended Fajardo's birthday party, he did not know about the incriminating information.

“The picture was taken September 3…Sa totoo lang sir during that time, September 3, wala pang nakakaalam ng involvement ni Fajardo, Acierto at ni Guban (To tell you the truth, sir, during that time, September 3, nobody knew about the involvement of Fajardo, Acierto, and Guban),” Aquino said.

According to Aquino, he only found out about the involvement of Fajardo 10 days after the party. (READ: PNP, PDEA, BOC officers implicated in P6.8-B shabu probe)

“I had a meeting with a top intelligence unit, that particular day, September 13, and we discussed the involvement of the 3, and they were able to present me in a brief presentation how the 3 were involved,” Aquino said.

Aquino said he sacked Fajardo a day later on September 14. He later announced Fajardo's relief in a House of Representatives probe on September 27.

Asked by Gordon how Fajardo managed to reach the PDEA’s top 2 post so easily, Aquino said he had trusted Fajardo as he was the “most senior” PDEA official, even more experienced in the PDEA than Aquino himself.

Fajardo has been with the PDEA for years, while Aquino only joined the PDEA after retiring from the Philippine National Police in September 2017.

Kung sino man ang nagpalabas ng picture na ‘yan (Whoever released that picture), it was given, it was published just to destroy my reputation, to destroy the image of PDEA,” Aquino said. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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