Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Wednesday, Feb. 24, confirmed the filing of criminal complaints against incumbent and former government officials and employees, and private individuals involving the 2019 “tapioca starch” shipment that yielded billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs.
Guevarra said the complaints were filed by the National Bureau of Investigation-Task Force Anti-Illegal Drugs (NBI-TFAID) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
“The complaint has something to do with a shipment of tapioca where 171 kilos of shabu hidden inside the aluminum pallets were accidentally discovered,” Guevarra told journalists covering the DOJ.
But he said, he has no other available details on the complaints that were filed.
Based on the complaints, criminally charged with graft were Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva, Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero, BOC Deputy Commissioner Raniel Ramiro, former PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino, Joel Plaza, Aldrin Albarino, Jigger Montallana, Melvin Estoque, Mark Malibiran, Judith Rigo, Dorcas Repolles, Noilan Avila, Mark Espiritu, Marc Anthony Marero, Cesar Carlo Bilowan, Alejandro Noble, Kathryn Joy Dionio, Koden Dario, Ivy Joy Nitura, Vincent Puti and Rory Dela Torre.
Nitura and Puti were also charged with violations of Section 27 of Republic Act No. 10863, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
Criminal charges for violations of RA 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, were filed against PDEA personnel Daniel Martinez, Mark Erick Espiritu, and Lester Matobago, and private individuals Muktasil Abundol Asimuddin, Alexander Jun Wah Ting Lee, Aaron Talingting, John Mark Macapagal, Joyce Anne Tumang, Emmanuel Delos Reyes Landicho, Maria Feliza Gonzales, George S. Fernandez, and a certain “Mr. Ke.”
The NBI said that all the PDEA and BOC officials and employees should be charged administratively with grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
It also said that said Aquino, Guerrero, and Ramiro should be charged additionally with serious dishonesty.
Published reports stated that in 2019, Lacson questioned the PDEA and the BOC for having allowed alleged Chinese drug lord Jack Co, who was behind the shipment, to get out the Philippines after the seizure of the shipment considering that the Chinese has been in the watch list of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).
Lacson also assailed the decision of the PDEA and BOC to auction the shipment.
The senator also doubted the claims of the two government agencies that the auction was part of a controlled delivery to draw out members of the illegal drugs syndicate.