House panel to compel PDEA chief to attend P6.8-B shabu shipment hearing

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on dangerous drugs will write a “strongly-worded letter” to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino, compelling him to attend the hearings on the alleged smuggling of P6.8-billion worth shabu into the country. 

The House panel approved the motion of Antipolo 2nd District Representative Romeo Acop, who wanted the letter written after he questioned Aquino's absence during the motu proprio investigation on Tuesday, August 14. (READ: How P6.8-B 'shabu' slipped past PNP, PDEA, Customs

Committee chairperson Robert Ace Barbers first explained Aquino told him he would not be able to make it due to a “very important commitment” out of town.

Barbers said no less than President Rodrigo Duterte supposedly ordered Aquino to go to this meeting.

But Acop, a retired police general, did not accept this, saying Aquino had not been attending previous investigations of the House panel either. (READ: TIMELINE: How P6.4-B worth of shabu was smuggled into PH from China)

Acop said the PDEA chief also did not show up even during a past hearing where then-speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and then-majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas were already present.

“So maybe, Mister Chair, may I move that a strongly-worded letter be written to the head of PDEA to attend these hearings? It is because of his statements that there are certain problems that have cropped up, and he will be the only one who will be able to answer this simply because these came from his own mouth!” said Acop.

The committee unanimously approved Acop’s motion.  

The panel is investigating how supposedly 1,000 kilograms of shabu estimated to be worth P6.8 billion slipped past PDEA, the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).  

Officials from the 3 agencies have so far been pointing fingers as to who should be blamed for failing to detect or intercept the illegal shipment. 

Aquino admitted to Rappler that PDEA and PNP got intelligence information about the shipment on July 16, but only shared the information to BOC on July 18. By then, it was too late to hunt down the alleged illegal drugs.

He said they did not share the information to the BOC at the time because it was still hearsay. He also blamed alleged corrupt officials from BOC for the smuggling of the illegal drugs. – Rappler.com

Read other stories from the hearing: 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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