Customs relieves X-ray inspectors who cleared magnetic lifters

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) have "temporarily relieved" the two X-ray inspectors who scanned and cleared the shipment containing 4 magnetic lifters later found ground open and empty in Cavite, Commissioner Isidro Lapeña announced on Tuesday, October 23.

Speaking in a press conference, Lapeña said the move was in accordance with a recommendation of a Customs investigating committee working in parallel with congressional probes into the missing P6.8-billion worth of shabu (methamphetamine) believed to have been packed inside the lifters.

The X-ray inspectors were identified as Noli Martinez and Benjamin Cajucom, and would be "temporarily relieved" for 30 days.

The two cleared the 4 magnetic lifters to pass through the Manila International Container Port on July 14 after seeing that the scans matched what was declared in the importation forms: magnetic lifters.

Why were they not dismissed? Lapeña said that the two were not removed from their posts because the reason they allowed the filters to pass through was they didn't find shabu in them. The BOC still believes that evidence so far points to the filters being empty, citing the negative results of a shabu swab test by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Instead, Lapeña said the two supposedly failed to see two "components" within the 4 magnetic lifters inside the shipment.

COMPONENTS? The objects in the left of the image appear to be the components referred by Customs chief Isidro Lapeu00f1a. Courtesy of House Committee on Dangerous Drugs

COMPONENTS? The objects in the left of the image appear to be the components referred by Customs chief Isidro Lapeu00f1a.

Courtesy of House Committee on Dangerous Drugs

Lapeña did not explain what the components were. He also did not hold a copy of the X-ray scans to point what these components were. 

Looking at the black-and-white X-ray scans provided by the House committee on dangerous, there appear to be two objects to the right of the 4 lifters which have not been identified so far in the probes. (READ: Empty or shabu-packed? X-ray scans of magnetic lifters revealed)

Lapeña said these components should have been enough to alarm them for possible misdeclaration to open the shipment and see what they were.

Even if they had opened the containers, however, Customs would not physically grind open the magnetic lifters to see whether there were things inside, as they still believe that they were empty. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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