By Raymund Antonio
The week saw the word war between Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino and Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña escalate over the shabu smuggling controversy.
Both officials refused to keep their mouth shut to prove their point on the six magnetic filters allegedly containing shabu found in August vis-à-vis the seized drugs from recent buy-busts in Metro Manila and Maguindanao.
Aquino claimed that based on PDEA’s laboratory analysis, samples from their drug busts matched the P3.4 billion worth of shabu seized inside two magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Port on August 7.
PDEA also discovered four identical magnetic filters three days later in a Cavite warehouse, but they were empty of their contents, which Aquino believed were shabu amounting to P6.8 billion.
The two magnetic lifters seized by the BOC came from Malaysia and were consigned to Vecaba Trading while the four emptied-out lifters found by the PDEA came from Vietnam and were consigned to SMYD Trading.
Lapeña, who is currently out of the country, disputed Aquino’s statements, saying that these were “noticeably and interestingly directed only against me.”
Mincing no words, the BOC chief denounced the repeated insinuations that the illegal drugs being sold in the streets came from the magnetic filters in Cavite that slipped through the Manila port.
“It is also interesting to note that there have been repeated attempts, which sadly happened while I am out of the country to address the issue personally, to insinuate that those illegal drugs confiscated in some operations in Metro Manila and Maguindanao are from the four magnetic lifters which were found in Cavite,” he said.
Lapeña explained that PDEA’s analysis “didn’t categorically answer” the question on whether or not the Cavite lifters really did contain shabu.
“The test conducted by PDEA then does not substantiate the PDEA’s claim that their recent shabu seizures are from those empty lifters found in Cavite since their basis is the MICT shabu substance which came from a different source,” he said.
“In fact, the basis of the comparison is from the more than 300 kilos of shabu which the BOC confiscated at the MICP,” the commissioner noted.
“As public officials we have to be more prudent in giving information to the general public, especially concerning a matter this serious,” Lapeña said.
As this developed, there seems to be no end in sight to the allegations of Customs’ former X-ray Inspection Project chief and lawyer Lourdes Mangaoang against Lapeña over the shabu smuggling.
Aside from the cover-up, Mangaoang said he may considered to be lawyering for drugs smugglers by maintaining that the four magnetic filters went through proper Customs clearance.
She also said the commissioner was wrong not to acknowledge the lapses of XIP personnel in allowing the illegal drugs to slip past the MICP.
“There are several pieces of circumstantial evidence, such as K-9 reactions, physical, documentary, and testimonial evidence supporting PDEA’s claims,” she said.
Mangaoang contradicted Lapeña for saying that shabu in drugs raids can’t be linked to the Cavite lifters.
“Even though the two shipments have different countries of origin based on the bills of lading only, such fact alone is not sufficient to support Commissioner Lapeña’s claim,” she said.
“Malaysia and Vietnam are not known sources of shabu and there is great possibility that those countries are mere transit ports,” the lady lawyer pointed out.