MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker wants the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to admit it made a mistake when it declared that 4 magnetic lifters intercepted in Cavite contained smuggled P6.8-billion shabu or methamphetamine.
Sultan Kudarat 2nd District Representative Horacio Suansing Jr told this to PDEA officials present Tuesday, August 14, during the House committee on dangerous drugs’ investigation on the alleged smuggling of 1,000 kilograms of shabu in July. (READ: How P6.8-B ‘shabu’ slipped past PNP, PDEA, Customs)
“For the sake of, to correct the misinformation of [PDEA deputy] director [for operations Ruel] Lasala, I think it’s only fair for the Bureau of Customs (BOC) that PDEA should issue recantation of the previous news article, na sasabihin lang diyan, mali pala (because they were quoted as saying there were drugs yet they are wrong),” said Suansing.
“Wala naman palang droga na nakita sa GMA (General Mariano Alvarez)… Siguro sa isang press release sabihin niyo ‘yan na negative,” he added.
(Apparently they did not see any drugs at GMA… Maybe you should issue a press release that the swab test was negative.)
Why Suansing wants PDEA to recant? During the hearing, BOC chief Isidro Lapeña told lawmakers that the 4 magnetic lifters have tested negative from drugs through their swab testing.
The magnetic lifters were already empty by the time PDEA, BOC, and the Philippine National Police retrieved these from a warehouse in Cavite.
Lapeña then said the PDEA “has no basis” to claim that illegal drugs got past the BOC’s screening.
How did PDEA respond? Lasala then reiterated an earlier statement of PDEA chief Aaron Aquino that “circumstantial evidence” indicate the magnetic lifters had containted shabu.
Lasala said the 4 lifters found in Cavite were similar to two other lifters that contained 355 kilograms of shabu that authorities previously intercepted at the Manila International Container Terminal. Authorities previously said 500 kilograms were seized there.
On Tuesday, Lasala said the lifters’ power supply, cables, the indicated address of the importer, and the asbestos found inside were all the same.
He added a drug-sniffing dog also sat when it inspected the 4 lifters, a method which the PDEA uses as an indication of the presence of illegal drugs.
Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo then asked Lasala in a mix of English and Filipino: “So are you in fact ready on record to say that you made a mistake? That you said there were drugs based on circumstantial evidence?”
Lasala stood by their belief the magnetic lifters were used to smuggle illegal drugs.
“Ang sinasabi namin, sir, na sa lahat ng circumstantial, sir, na situation, evidence na nakalap namin, ang lamang noong metallic lifter na ‘yon ay droga, sir (What we’re saying, sir, is that based on circumstantial situation and evidence we were able to gather, the metallic lifters had contained drugs),” said Lasala.
“Siguro talagang namomropblema tayo rito dahil ‘di katulad ng ibang mga seizure na nariyan na talaga ‘yong droga, ‘yong body of the crime. But we are saying na ‘yong context noon ay droga,” he added.
(Perhaps we’re having a problem here because unlike past seizures wherein the drugs itself was intercepted, the body of crime was not found here. But we are saying the context surrounding the metallic lifters involve drug smuggling.)
The hearing is ongoing as of posting time. Rappler.com
Watch the hearing here:
LIVE: House hearing on P6.8-billion shabu smuggled from China, Taiwan
Read other stories from the hearing: