A 46-year-old American was arrested on Basilan Island after he was found to have an outstanding arrest warrant for possession of drugs.
According to Senior Inspector Shellamie Chang, of Zamboanga City Police Office, Thomas James Papalla, of Phoenix, Arizona, was originally questioned by local police officers who wanted to know why he was visiting the dangerous island.
Basilan is a stronghold of the Islamic State-affiliated terror group Abu Sayyaf. In recent years the group has kidnapped a number of foreigners for ransom, and killed several by beheading.
Sn. Insp. Chang said, that after making a background check on Papalla, they found that he had a standing arrest warrant for violation of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News from his cell yesterday (Monday, December 18), Papalla admitted that he had previously been caught with illegal drugs in Naga City.
He also owned up to his plan to escape to Malaysia by boat, taking advantage of the porous maritime border across the pirate-infested Sulu Sea.
Papalla added that he used to work as a hotel waiter in the US before he found himself handling illegal drugs in the Philippines.
It was not confirmed what drugs he was caught with in Naga City, nor whether they were for personal use. However, he did admit that he had been using marijuana back in the US, but claimed that it was part of a medical treatment.
Papalla failed to present his passport and other travel documents to the police, although he claimed that he had all these documents with him on Basilan Island.
Chang said Papalla will be taken to Naga City within a week to face the charges filed against him.
She added the deportation process would begin after the final resolution of the case in court.