Batangas vice guv denies ties to drug cartel

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

MANILA -- Batangas Vice Governor Jose Antonio "Marc" Leviste II and his father Conrad recently denied involvement in the operation of an illegal drug syndicate in a ranch owned by their clan.

Leviste said he is only a stockholder of Running Spring Real Estate, Inc., which runs the LPL ranch in Inosluban, Lipa City, where authorities seized 84 kilos of shabu worth P420 million last December 25.

"I earlier informed my family of my intent not to be involved and deliberately chose to concentrate on my duties as a government employee and render public service to the province of Batangas and my fellow Batangueños," the official said in his affidavit submitted on Tuesday to the investigating panel formed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The one-hectare property was leased by the family-run LBJ Development a certain Jorge Torres in June 2013. Torres is said to be the Filipino partner of the notorious Sinaloa drug ring of Mexico.

Leviste said he was unaware of any illegal activity that was being conducted inside the ranch, adding he will never allow the illegal drug trade to flourish in Batangas.

"I specifically deny any insinuation, hint, allusion, innuendo, allegation or reference that my family members, our family companies or myself have any direct or indirect connection with the Sinaloa Mexico and/or Chinese drug cartels," said Conrad, the twin brother of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste, who also denied the insinuation last week.

LBJ corporate secretary Benedicto Orense also explained his side in a separate statement given to Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera.
For their part, spouses Arjay and Rochelle Argenos asked the DOJ to junk the charges against them for lack of merit.

The Argenos and Gary Tan were arrested and charged following a joint raid at the ranch by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

"Ako (Arjay) ang nagpapakain ng mga manok samantalang ako (Rochelle) naman ang naglilinis ng buong bahay at nagpapakain ng mga sisiw na may tatlumpu't anim (36) ang bilang," the counter-affidavit stated.

The couple said they had not done anything illegal during the raid. Rochelle was arrested while cleaning the compound near the gate and Arjay was nabbed while opening the gate of the compound.

Torres was not included in the complaint although Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had already requested PDEA to charge him.

Tan, meanwhile, has until January 21 to submit his written defense. (Sunnex)

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