P6.4B shabu: Case vs middlemen refiled, NBI still not involved

Lian Buan
P6.4B shabu: Case vs middlemen refiled, NBI still not involved

Lito Boras/Rappler.com

The DOJ is still 'studying' whether or not to task the NBI to conduct a case buildup on the shabu shipment

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) refiled its drug importation charges against Customs fixer Mark Taguba and other middlemen over the smuggling of a P6.4 billion shabu shipment.

This revives the charges against the middlemen previously dismissed by the Valenzuela Regional Trial Court (RTC) for lack of jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is still not involved as the Department of Justice (DOJ) resolves an appeal by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to reinstate the charges against former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

Refiled

The DOJ refiled the charges before the Manila RTC, Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes announced on Thursday, January 25.

The charge sheet, dated January 23, was filed against Taguba, middleman Kenneth Dong and 7 others namely: 

  1. Chen Ju Long a.k.a. “Richard Tan” or “Richard Chen”
  2. Li Guang Feng a.k.a. “Manny Li”
  3. Eirene Mae A. Tatad
  4. Teejay A. Marcellana
  5. Chen I. Min
  6. Jhu Ming Jhun
  7. Chen Rong Huan
They are the same people charged before a Valenzuela court, but those charges were dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction.

The Valenzuela court ruled that the crime of importation was committed at the Manila port, and did not extend to the warehouse in Valenzuela where the shabu was eventually siezed.

The DOJ filed a Motion for Reconsideration (MR) but it was denied, said Balmes.

Faeldon case

PDEA Spokesperson Derrick Carreon told Rappler they filed a motion for reconsideration at the DOJ to reinstate the charges against Faeldon and other customs officials.

The DOJ panel dismissed the charges against Faeldon et. al because of insufficient evidence presented by PDEA. The PDEA’s 70-page motion for reconsideration stresses the results of congressional inquiries provide enough evidence against Faeldon et.al.

In many high-profile cases, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II usually taps the NBI to conduct an exhaustive case buildup. Asked in November why he cannot do the same with the shabu shipment, Aguirre said that a memorandum from President Rodrigo Duterte restricts them to.

Aguirre was referring to the memorandum that designated PDEA as the sole agency in the war on drugs.

Aguirre said that he can involve the NBI again if Duterte issues a new memorandum bringing them back into the drug war operations. 

“Puwede ako mag-DO (Department Order) ulit, but now no more (I can sign a Department Order again, but now no more),” he said on November 24.

NBI returned to the war on drugs on December 6.

Balmes said, however, that the DOJ was “still studying” the issuance of a DO to authorize the NBI to conduct a case buildup. Balmes said on Thursday he was still asking the Undersecretary-in-charge for an explanation what aspects still need studying. 

Aguirre did not respond to text messages requesting for comment. 

Faeldon and other public officials are the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman, which notes of Taguba’s testimony implicating a middleman group called the ‘Davao’ group. – with a report from Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.