Lapeña leaves Customs: ‘I did what I needed to do’

Rambo Talabong
Lapeña leaves Customs: ‘I did what I needed to do’
Isidro Lapeña says he is leaving the Bureau of Customs 'knowing I have done the right thing, the right way'

MANILA, Philippines – Faced with controversies and allegations of incompetence during his watch as Bureau of Customs chief, Isidro Lapeña said on Wednesday, October 31, that he had done everything that he “needed to do” in connection with the missing P11-billion shabu shipment that rocked the bureau at the end of his 14-month stint.

“I believe that I have done and acted what I needed to do…I just maintained my silence out of respect to the ongoing investigations being conducted in both houses, but I strongly believe, that [in] the end, the truth will prevail,” Lapeña said in his farewell speech at the BOC change of command ceremony on Wednesday, where he formally turned over the BOC leadership to former military chief Rey Guerrero.

Lapeña was referring to the controversy surrounding 4 empty magnetic lifters believed to have been packed with P11 billion worth of shabu that slipped past the BOC, and found in a Cavite warehouse in August. It is the subject of congressional probes. (TIMELINE: The search for P11-B shabu ‘smuggled’ into PH)

He said leading the BOC was “a very challenging task” but also”a very fulfilling one.”

“I will leave the Bureau of Customs knowing that I have done the right thing, the right way,” Lapeña added.

The alleged missing P11-billion shabu shipment was the last controversy to rock the BOC prior to President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to “promote” Lapeña as Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director general, a Cabinet post.

While the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was quick to say the equipment had contained illegal drugs, Lapeña said the opposite, citing BOC swab tests on the lifters that yielded negative results.  

Lapeña maintained this position until last week, when he admitted before a congressional panel that the lifters might have contained drugs, as insisted by PDEA. 

Former BOC X-ray chief Lourdes Mangaoang, a veteran Customs employee, had called out Lapeña for allegedly covering up for drug syndicates because of his position on the issue. He denied this.

Lapeña announced that he filed cases against those involved in possibly the biggest shabu smuggling controversy under the Duterte administration. 

Duterte himself had defended Lapeña from critics, saying he was not corrupt and was not involved in shabu smuggled into the country. –

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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.