DOJ forms panel to probe PDEA, BOC officials, workers in ‘tapioca starch’ shipment with 171 kilos of shabu

Published March 5, 2021, 12:31 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has formed a panel of prosecutors to investigate the criminal complaints filed against Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva, Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero and other officials and personnel on the 2019 “tapioca starch” shipment which yielded billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs.

Department of Justice (DoJ) (MANILA BULLETIN)

Prosecutor General Benedicto A. Malcontento said the panel is headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rassendel Rex Gingoyon with Assistant State Prosecutors Mary Jane Sytat and Ethel Rea Suril as members.

The complaints against Villanueva, Guerrero and other PDEA and BOC officials and personnel were filed by the National Bureau of Investigation-Task Force Anti-Illegal Drugs (NBI-TFAID) last Feb. 23.

Subject of the complaints was the 2019 shipment of “tapioca starch” from Cambodia which was found to contain 171 kilograms of methamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu, hidden in 30 aluminum pallets.

The NBI recommended that Guerrero, BOC Deputy Commissioner Raniel Ramiro, former PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino be charged with violation of Section 4(c) of Republic Act No. 6713, the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees.

They were also charged with violations of Section 3(e) of RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, together with Villanueva and 17 other government officials and personnel — 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 violation of Section 27 of RA 10863, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

Also, the NBI said that all of the public officials and personnel should be charged administratively with grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

In the case of Aquino, Guerrero, and Ramiro, the NBI said they should also be charged administratively with serious dishonesty.

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” were charged with violations of RA 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.