Barbers clears Lapeña in shabu smuggling

Mara Cepeda

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Barbers clears Lapeña in shabu smuggling
The chairperson of the House committee on dangerous drugs says command responsibility does not apply to former customs chief Isidro Lapeña either

MANILA, Philippines – House committee on dangerous drugs chairperson Robert Ace Barbers said on Monday, November 12, that ex-Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña has no accountability over the multi-billion-peso worth of shabu that were smuggled into the country this year. 

Barbers, Surigao del Sur 2nd District congressman, was responding to reporters’ question on whether Lapeña had any accountability over the missing P11-billion and the intercepted P2.4-billion shabu shipments this year. (READ: At the Bureau of Customs: How Isidro Lapeña was outplayed

“I will not speak in behalf of the committee. This is just an opinion coming from me. Wala akong nakikitang kinalaman ni Commissioner Lapeña diyan sa pagpapalusot ng mga shipments, ilegal na shipments or kargamentong ‘yan,” said Barbers. (I don’t see any accountability of Commissioner Lapeña over those illegal shipments that slipped past authorities.) 

The congressman still cleared Lapeña when asked if the doctrine of command responsibility – which promotes the idea that higher-ups may be held liable for the mistakes, criminal or administrative, of their subordinates – should apply to former Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief. 

“Well, if that would be considered, I don’t think it would apply to a criminal situation such as smuggling of illegal drugs, then sa tingin ko, wala pa ring, walang gano’ng kabigat na accountability si Commissioner [Lapeña] (then I think Commissioner Lapeña still does not have any serious accountability over it),” said Barbers.

At the wake of House and Senate probes into the shabu shipments, President Rodrigo Duterte transferred Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority as its director general, a Cabinet post. 

Lawmakers, however, slammed Lapeña’s transfer, saying the latter’s “promotion” was aimed to protect him from the findings of the congressional investigations. (READ: Lapeña no-show in Senate P11-B shabu probe

Lapeña was replaced as BOC chief by former military chief and current Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Rey Guerrero. Legislators have since denounced the militarization of Duterte’s government. 

On Monday, Barbers said his committee would be summoning this week two cops and a BOC broker involved in the illegal shabu shipment. –


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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.