House resumes probe into missing P6.8-B shabu shipment

Rambo Talabong
House resumes probe into missing P6.8-B shabu shipment
What is expected to happen in the continuation of the House probe into the alleged missing P6.8-billion shabu shipment?

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on dangerous drugs resumes its probe into the alleged missing one ton of shabu (methamphetamine) worth P6.8 billion on Thursday, September 27.

The session is set to resume at 10 am at the Andaya Hall of the House of Representatives, picking up from discussions at the first hearing on August 14.

During the last hearing, lawmakers tried to end the tussle between the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC), who tossed blame on the discovery of empty giant magnetic lifters in a Cavite warehouse which were thought to contain shabu.

The PDEA was quick to impute “corrupt” Customs employees, while the BOC pointed the failure of the PDEA and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to share intelligence on the alleged illegal drugs shipment.

What has been established? Whether or not the magnetic lifters contained illegal drugs remains to be the biggest point of contention in the hearing.

The PDEA believes that the lifters had been filled with illegal drugs, citing their K9 dogs that sat down upon sniffing the equipment – indicating the presence of illegal drugs – and the similar appearance of the magnetic lifters used as shabu containers found at the Manila International Container Terminal.

PDEA also cited witness claims of “Chinese-looking personalities” entering the Cavite warehouse to unpack shabu from the lifters. Chung-Chun Hsu, the person who rented the warehouse, is an alleged drug suspect in Taiwan, the last shipment point of the supposed empty magnetic lifters before arriving in Manila.

Customs doubted the existence of shabu, based on the swab test that was negative for illegal drugs

If the lifters indeed contained shabu, Customs said that it would have been difficult for its people to halt the shipment without enough reason to do so.

The BOC X-ray scanners, it turned out, could not track contraband wrapped in lead, plastic, and foil.

What is expected in the resumption of hearings? PDEA and Customs are expected to give updates on their joint and separate investigations in the past two weeks.

PDEA chief Director General Aaron Aquino is expected to finally face the House panel, after availing of his vacation leave on the first day of the hearing. 

Lawmakers had vowed to write Aquino a strongly worded letter to attend, as he was first to allege that Customs employees might be involved.

The PNP Drug Enforcement Group (DEG), the PNP’s unit in charge of solving high-profile drugs cases, has so far been silent on the issue as its own director, Chief Superintendent Albert Ferro,  was out of town during the last hearing. – Rappler.com

Read stories from the first hearing: 

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.