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2 Filipino teachers get life for drug ‘mule’ job

Nearly five years after their arrest, two Filipino teachers in China moonlighting as drug mules for an international drug syndicate who chose them because of their “noble profession” have been meted out life sentences for smuggling heroin into Manila.

In his decision dated March 11, Judge Petronillo Sulla Jr. of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 110 found Salvador Agunday Alberto and Jane Turalde Vargas guilty of transporting 887.88 grams of heroin in 2009.

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“The prosecution having proven the guilt of both accused beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged in the information, judgment is hereby rendered finding them guilty as charged and they are hereby sentenced to [each] suffer the penalty of life imprisonment,” he said.

At the same time, the judge ordered both to pay a fine of P500,000 each for violating the antidrugs act.

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“The conviction of the pair hopefully will serve as a warning to others drug mules or those contemplating to [become] drug carriers not to succumb to easy money,” NBI Deputy Director Ruel Lasala of the task force for illegal drugs told the Inquirer.

According to the NBI, the two taught in Bicol region until they left for teaching jobs in China in 2004. Both were later granted residency visas.

Special investigator Joel Otic of the NBI Reaction Arrest and Interdiction Division (RAID) said the pair was working for the West African Drugs Syndicate (WADS).

“The pair was especially chosen as drug mules by WADS because of their noble profession as teachers. Our culture’s high regard for teachers was capitalized [on] by the syndicate [which] recruited them as drug mules,” Otic added.

His team under the leadership of then RAID head agent Ruel Bolivar arrested Alberto and Vargas on July 31, 2009, after an intensive surveillance operation that involved informants from abroad.

Otic said that a tipster from Malaysia informed them that Vargas, who had been instructed by the syndicate to go to that country, would be arriving in Manila.

Upon her arrival, the NBI tightened its surveillance on her, allowing them to monitor her meeting with Alberto to whom she turned over the trolley bag she had brought in from Malaysia.

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After it was confirmed that the suitcase contained heroin, the NBI apprehended Alberto at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as he was about to get on a plane.

He yielded the trolley bag which had a hidden partition that contained the heroin. At the time he was arrested, Alberto was returning to China where he was teaching Oral English at Shanwei University.

Vargas, on the other hand, was later arrested at a hotel near the airport. The court records did not indicate where she taught in China.

“They were confident that the second carrier [Alberto] for China could go through [customs] because the first carrier  from Malaysia [Vargas] successfully arrived [in Manila] with the contraband …” Otic said.

According to Lasala, drug mules get as much as P1.2 million per delivery, especially to China where they face the death penalty should they get caught. The price of illegal drugs in China is 10 times higher compared to that in other Asian countries.

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TAGS: China, Crime, Global Nation, heroin, Illegal Drugs, Jane Turalde Vargas, Malaysia, Metro, NBI, Salvador Agunday Alberto, West African Drugs Syndicate
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