House frees ex-mayor from jail in spirit of Christmas

December 6, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 136 views

THE House committee on dangerous drugs on Wednesday freed former mayor Teddy Tumang of Mexico, Pampanga, who was earlier cited for contempt, from detention in the spirit of the Christmas season.

It was Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. who presented the motion to free his former mayor in the course of the committee’s third hearing on the seizure last September of 560 kilos of illegal drugs worth P3.6 billion in a warehouse in Brgy. San Jose Malino, Mexico, Pampanga.

“Mr. Chairman, may I move that the committee temporarily release Mayor Tumang, who is my kabalen and kumpare, so he could be with his family during the coming Christmas and New Year holidays,” Gonzales told the panel chaired by Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers.

The Pampanga congressman and Tumang are townmates in Mexico.

Gonzales said the former mayor’s furlough would also allow him to attend the wedding of one of his children and to recover from Covid-19, which he has contracted during his detention.

“He should just isolate himself at home until he recovers,” he said. “Let us thank Senior Deputy Speaker Gonzales for this gesture,” Barbers said.

Gonzales also proposed that Tumang’s temporary liberty last until Congress resumes its session on Jan. 22, 2024 after its Christmas break.

The committee approved his proposal.

The Barbers committee cited the former mayor for contempt and ordered him detained last Nov. 15 for revealing information taken up by the panel in an executive session. House rules prohibit such revelation.

A former town hall aide of Tumang, Roy Gomez, has similarly been cited for contempt and detained by another panel, the committee on public accounts.

Barbers informed his panel that he received a letter from Tumang in which the former mayor repeated his apology for revealing information taken up in a closed-door session. Tumang also requested that his 30-day detention be reduced.

“He has already served 15 days in detention. We will take up his request for a reduced confinement period when he reports back on Jan. 22,” the committee chairman said.

During his committee’s hearing, Barbers directed the National Bureau of Investigation, the agency that led the drug confiscation, “to produce Willy Ong, the main actor in this P3.6-billion illegal drugs shipment.”

“This is your project. You have to hunt down Willy Ong and bring him to this committee in the next hearing,” the Mindanao lawmaker told lawyer Ross Jonathan Galicia, who heads the NBI task force against illegal drugs.

“Do you know how he looks like? Do you have a picture of him?” Barbers asked Galicia, who responded, “No, Your honor.”

“How can you find him if you don’t know what he looks like and you don’t have a picture of him?” Barbers asked again.

Galicia said the NBI has requested the Department of Foreign Affairs, Land Transportation Office and other agencies for records on Ong, and that his office was still awaiting replies from these offices.

Barbers and Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop lamented that up to now, the NBI and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency have not arrested anyone behind the 560-kilo illegal drugs shipment and no case has been filed.

“So this is another case where there is a crime but no criminal,” Barbers said wryly.

PDEA Director General Moro Virgilio Lazo informed the committee that he met with NBI officials last Oct. 19 and that the latter asked for a period of one-and-a-half months from that date to file cases.

Galicia acknowledged their self-imposed timeline has already lapsed but promised the Barbers committee his task force would file charges against some unnamed persons in interest “before the end of this year.”