Pampanga, July 15, 2003 By Christina Mendez (Star) President Arroyo and her convoy waited for almost an hour after midnight last Sunday at a hotel lobby in Pampanga, only to find out that a warehouse in San Fernando City suspected of being a drug laboratory was only used to store noodles.

Pampanga police director Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Mendoza Jr. said Mrs. Arroyo, accompanied by her husband and top Philippine National Police (PNP) officials, returned to Malacañang after midnight when police found that the warehouse in Barangay San Jose did not have shabu or any equipment used to manufacture illegal drugs.

"Walang nakuha, pati ang mga aso walang naamoy na traces ng shabu," Mendoza told The STAR in an interview, referring to a batch of K-9 dogs purportedly used by the police during the raid.

Mendoza said the local police and a team of agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) based in Central Luzon had to return the search warrant issued by Pampanga regional trial court Judge Divina Simbulan after the search yielded negative results.

The search started shortly before 12 midnight and lasted up to 3 a.m.

"The warehouse was used as stock area for noodles and sotanghon," Mendoza said.

He expressed suspicion that some individuals at the warehouse may have gotten wind of the operation, giving them time to transfer any illegal substances or equipment used to make them before the police raided the warehouse.

"We had difficulty in getting the search warrant at once. So we never knew what happened between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.," Mendoza said, referring to the time the warehouse’s location was disclosed by one of four Chinese drug suspects earlier arrested in Silang, Cavite, and the time law enforcers got hold of the search warrant.

A Chinese woman residing in the house adjacent to the warehouse is now the subject of an investigation by the Bureau of Immigration to determine the legality of her stay in the country, he said.

The premature arrival of Mrs. Arroyo, her husband, and top government officials led by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina Jr. stemmed from the President’s decision to proceed to Pampanga after she personally inspected a shabu laboratory at 277 Impex Compound at Talon, Las Piñas on Sunday night.

PNP chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., PNP deputy chief for administration Deputy Director General Edgar Aglipay, and Central Luzon police director Chief Superintendent Vidal Querol accompanied Mrs. Arroyo and her security convoy, who were diverted to the Days Hotel in San Fernando.

The President experienced a similar situation a few months ago, when she and her convoy rushed to a warehouse in Rizal, only to find that the police failed to secure a search warrant to legalize the raid.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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