In Tabuk City, Kalinga, law enforcement carried out an operation that successfully stopped a significant amount of marijuana with a street value of around P19.9 million. The operation happened near the triangular crossing in Barangay Calanan, and Benjamin Fajardo Bauto, the van's driver, was arrested.
How the Operation Unfolded
The operation started when PCol. Joey Bagayao of Tabuk City Police Station (TCPS) got a call from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Lubuagan. Around 12:20 PM, PNP Lubuagan reported that a white van with the plate number MGO 777 had evaded their checkpoint in Dinakan, Lubuagan, and was speeding toward Tabuk City.
PCol. Bagayao quickly put together a team to monitor the van's movements. The team spotted the van near Calanan at approximately 1:05 PM and stopped it shortly after it reached the triangular junction while heading towards Chico Line barangays.
Seizure of a Significant Amount of Drugs
During the search of the Toyota Hi Ace van, law enforcement found a substantial quantity of illegal drugs, including:
a) 156 pieces of dried marijuana leaves and stalks in brick form, wrapped in transparent tape, weighing 156 kilograms (156 kgs).
b) 20 dried marijuana leaves and stalks in tubular form, each wrapped in transparent tape, and weighing 500 grams (500 grams) each.
Apart from the drugs, they also discovered non-drug items:
a) A white Hi-Ace van with plate number MGO 777, registered under the name of Benjamin Fajardo Bauto. b) Benjamin Fajardo Bauto's professional driver's license. c) One car key with a remote.
The estimated street value of the seized drugs was P19.9 million, making it a significant success for the law enforcement team.
Arrest and Legal Proceedings
The van's driver, Benjamin Fajardo Bauto, was arrested and is currently in police custody. Bauto, a Filipino male who is married and works as an on-call driver, resides at Block 3 Lot 33 Benitez Subdivision, Concepcion Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija. At the time of his arrest, he had his driver's license, the vehicle's OR/CR, a small bag, and some cash.
Benjamin Fajardo Bauto will be facing charges for violation of Republic Act 9165, commonly known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law of 2002, particularly for the illegal transport of prohibited drugs. The seized evidence has been transferred to the Tabuk City police station, where it awaits turnover to the Kalinga Crime Laboratory for further analysis.
Kalinga Police Provincial Director Freddie Lazona stated, "We will be conducting further investigation to determine the scope of the suspect's operation, assess the network of distribution, identify potential groups involved, and importantly, uncover the supplier of the seized marijuana."
The investigative process concluded at around 4:45 PM, and Benjamin Fajardo Bauto will remain in custody at the TCPS in Dagupan. This operation was a successful collaborative effort, with multiple units, including PNP TCPS, 3rd Regional Mobile Force Battalion 15 (3rd RMFB15), PIU/PDEU, 2nd KPMFC, RID-PRO COR, PHPT Kalinga, and Kalinga PECU, contributing to its success.