By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) concluded Tuesday (March 12) its preliminary investigation on the criminal complaints concerning the billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs which were smuggled into the country using magnetic lifters in 2018.
The panel of prosecutors, chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Mary Jane Sytat, wrapped up the preliminary investigation and declared as submitted for resolution the consolidated complaints of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
During yesterday’s hearing, the panel accepted the position papers of the parties, and conducted a clarificatory hearing of the documents submitted by the parties.
Before that, the panel inspected the magnetic lifters that are being kept at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez (GMA), Cavite and the Manila International Container Port (MICP) last March 7 and 8, respectively.
The case concerns the billions of pesos worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu, which were discovered concealed inside magnetic lifters att he MICP.
The magnetic lifters in GMA were also believed to have contained more, but were already empty when they were discovered by government agents.
In its January 23 complaint, the NBI accused former Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena, Vener Baquiran, Zsae Carrie de Guzman, John Mar Morales, and Benjamin Cajucom of having committed dereliction of duty in violation of the Revised Penal Code; violation of Section 3(e) of the Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); and grave misconduct in violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees.
The NBI complaint also named as respondents over 40 other persons, including the three “core conspirators”, namely, former Customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban, former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Deputy Director for Administration Ismael Fajardo, and dismissed Police Sr. Supt. Eduardo Acierto for importation of illegal drugs in violation of Section 26 of RA 9165 (the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002); violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019; and for grave misconduct.
While, the PDEA’s December 13, 2018 complaint accused 44 respondents, including Guban, Fajardo and Acierto, with importation of dangerous drugs, they were also charged with attempt of conspiracy, and liability of a person violating any regulation issued by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
They are also accused of violating Section 3(e) of RA 3019, and for obstruction of justice in violation Presidential Decree No. 1829, Section 1(c) and the Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
In another complaint filed on August 29, 2018, the PDEA accused Chan Yee Wah Albert, Zhang Quan, Vedasto Baraquel Jr., and Maria Lagrimas Catipan of possession of illegal drugs in violation of RA 9165.