Gordon clears Lapeña of crime in P11-B missing shabu controversy

MANILA, Philippines – Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon will not be recommending criminal cases to be filed against former Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief Isidro Lapeña.

Facing reporters on Monday, December 3, Gordon was asked whether he will be recommending criminal cases against Lapeña after wrapping up the Senate probe into the missing P11 billion shabu (methamphetamine).

“Lapeña? No…Tinanggal na eh (He was removed already),” Gordon said.

Gordon’s statement has basis. While he has called on Lapeña as possibly negligent for the way he managed the BOC, there has been no link established between Lapeña and the so-called triumvirate of sacked Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency deputy chief Ismael Fajardo, dismissed police colonel Eduardo Acierto, and resigned Customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban.

Lapeña was removed as chief of BOC a day after he admitted that he believed that the magnetic lifters found in Cavite contained illegal drugs. He, however, was promoted and is now serving as the head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA.

Who will face criminal cases?

STATE WITNESS. Jimmy Guban, former intelligence officer of the BOC at the Senate hearing into the missing P11-billion shabu.

File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Gordon said he will recommend criminal charges against Fajardo and Acierto. Embattled Customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban, while admitting involvement in the shabu shipments, is already immune from cases as he has turned himself in as a state witness.

Gordon added that he will recommend cases against the consignees.

The consignee for the P2.4 billion worth of shabu found in abandoned magnetic lifter is Vecaba Trading owned by Vedasto Cabral Baraquel and his wife Maria Lagrimas Catipan. The consignee for the magnetic lifters suspected to have been packed with P11-billion shabu is SMYD Trading, which is owned by Marina Signapan. (TIMELINE: The search for P11-B shabu 'smuggled' into PH)

The senator added that he wants charges filed against Police Inspector Lito Pirote, who allegedly gave Guban a small bag stuffed with P300,000 to orchestrate a cover-up for SMYD trading. Pirote claimed in the hearing that he was merely following orders from Acierto to hand the bag to Guban without his knowledge of what's inside and what the money is for.

Baraquel, Catipan, and Signapan denied any knowledge of the illegal drugs shipments.

Gordon also recommended for the removal of “negligent” officers, but he did not specify which agencies they belonged.

He said, however, that he wanted X-ray officers of the BOC fired by its new chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero. – Rappler.com

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.