Lapeña cries foul as PDEA boosts theory P6.8-B shabu slipped past Customs

Lian Buan
Lapeña cries foul as PDEA boosts theory P6.8-B shabu slipped past Customs
PDEA chief Aaron Aquino offers analysis of 'oversupply' and a match test, but Customs chief Isidro Lapeña says they are imprudent speculations

MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief Isidro Lapeña continues to find himself in a tight spot after the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) this week offered more evidence to boost its theory that 4 magnetic lifters found in Cavite in August really did contain P6.8 billion worth of shabu.

Lapeña, who is out of the country, said on Saturday, October 20, that PDEA’s statements were “noticeably and interestingly directed only against me.”

“It is also interesting to note that there have been repeated attempts, which sadly happened while I am out of the country to address the issue personally, to insinuate that those illegal drugs confiscated in some operations in Metro Manila and Maguindanao are from the 4 magnetic lifters which were found in Cavite,” said Lapeña.

What’s the new theory? PDEA Chief Aaron Aquino was quoted by GMA News last week as saying that the drugs seized from recent raids of Metro Manila streets matched the drugs seized inside magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) on August 7.

To recall, the combined forces of PDEA and BOC intercepted on August 7 two magnetic lifters containing 355 kilograms of shabu at the MICT. A tipster from Cavite who watched the news coverage led PDEA to a warehouse there that contained similar-looking magnetic lifters.

The Cavite magnetic lifters, when discovered, were empty. But Aquino had gone on record repeatedly that he believes the magnetic lifters in Cavite contained P6.8 billion shabu. Lapeña insists otherwise. 

The questioned magnetic lifters were processed and cleared by the Customs. 

On Saturday, Lapeña said that the drugs in the streets matching with the drugs at the MICT does not prove that the magnetic lifters in Cavite really did contain shabu.

“The test conducted by PDEA then does not substantiate the PDEA’s claim that their recent shabu seizures are from those empty lifters found in Cavite since their basis is the MICT shabu substance which came from a different source,” Lapeña said.

How to explain the oversupply? For Aquino, there has to be an explanation why there is an “oversupply” of shabu in Metro Manila.

Aquino said that just months ago, shabu cost P6,800 per gram, when now it just costs P2,000 per gram. The principle of supply and demand leads Aquino to believe that the rollback in price means there are a lot of shabu in the market. 

“Kaya bumabaha ngayon ng droga ngayon sa Manila because of those 4 magnetic lifters. Lumalabas ngayon na nakaka-match na kami ng droga doon sa nahuhuli naming droga sa MICT,” Aquino said, as quoted by GMA News.

SHABU PROBE. Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena (left) and PDEA Director Aaron Aquino on September 27, 2018, during the Committee on Dangerous Drugs hearing in Congress into the P6.8 billion worth of shabu smuggled into the country from China and Taiwan. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

(The reason why drugs are flooding Manila because of those 4 magnetic lifters. It’s turning out now that the drugs we have been seizing lately match the drugs we found at the MICT)

Aquino added: “Lumalabas na ‘yung magnetic lifters talaga sa GMA (Cavite) ay nailabas talaga. Kasi ‘yung source dito sa MICT na nahuli namin noon at saka sa GMA iisang source lang.” 

(It’s turning out that the magnetic lifters found in GMA, Cavite, were really distributed. Because the source of the drugs from MICT and the drugs from GMA came from one source.)

Lapeña called Aquino’s theory “unfounded allegations.”

Lapeña noted that the MICT drugs came from Malaysia, while the lifters in Cavite came from Vietnam.

“The scientific analysis made by the PDEA did not categorically answer the question on whether or not the 4 magnetic lifters indeed contain shabu. In fact, the basis of the comparison is from the more than 300 kilos of shabu which the BOC confiscated at the MICT,” said Lapeña.

“As public officials we have to be more prudent in giving information to the general public, especially concerning a matter this serious,” Lapeña added.

No less than the Customs’ former X-ray chief Lourdes Mangaoang told a Senate panel that the BOC failed to follow standard operating procedures in scanning the 4 magnetic lifters.

Based on scans, Mangaoang claimed that if she had performed the scan herself, she would have concluded “100%” that the lifters contained “things” inside, and that she would have asked for a physical inspection. (TIMELINE: The search for P6.8-B shabu ‘smuggled’ into PH)

Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon slammed the BOC for incompetence.

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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 or tweet @lianbuan.