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P11-B shabu slip: Who is Customs intel officer Jimmy Guban?

MANILA, Philippines – He has been accused of facilitating the entry of the very shipments he was supposed to block.

The career of resigned Bureau of Customs (BOC) intelligence officer Jimmy Guban took a downturn after congressional probes pointed to his alleged involvement in the shipment of magnetic lifters found in Cavite, believed by all law enforcement agencies to have been packed with shabu (methamphetamine) worth up to P11 billion (earlier estimated at 6.8 billion).

On Wednesday, October 24, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his arrest just minutes after lawmakers finished grilling him at the House of Representatives.

“Tell me who is this guy asking for money, extortion. I will call him here, I'll have him arrested. Kaya iyang si Guban pinapa-aresto ko (I'm ordering the arrest of Guban),” Duterte said.

Guban is currently under the custody of the Senate blue ribbon committee. He was initially detained after being cited in contempt for inconsistent testimonies. But on Thursday, blue ribbon committee chairperson Senator Richard Gordon disclosed that his panel will move to turn Guban into a state witness.

What makes him so controversial yet valuable in the probe? Guban is included in Duterte’s drug list, and has emerged in the House and Senate probes as the facilitator of the shipment of the controversial magnetic lifters. (READ: Duterte to Lapeña and Aquino: Stop blaming each other)

How Duterte knows him

Guban was named in Duterte's drug matrix which linked law enforcers to the Philippine narcotics trade.

According to the published intelligence report, Guban was part of a “network” of “fellows” spread across the Department of Finance, Department of Trade and Industry, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the National Bureau of Investigation.

In this group, Guban supposedly played the role of the go-to guy “when they wanted illegal commodities to come in.”

Guban’s main modus operandi, as the dossier claimed, was that he kept ties with warehouse owners who receive contrabands. He is also alleged to have drug syndicate contacts abroad, especially in China and Taiwan, the major sources of illegal drugs in the Philippines.

He would allegedly let the warehouse owners keep 75% of the smuggled goods, while leaving 25% for staged raids organized by Guban to show progress in the BOC.

The intelligence information's description of Guban resembles his alleged involvement in the shipment of the 4 magnetic lifters believed to have stored the now missing one ton of shabu worth P11 billion.

Involvement in P11-B shabu case

As with any shipment, none would not be able to land on Philippine shores without a consignee.

It was Guban who looked for that requirement, tapping consignee SMYD Trading and owner Marina Signapan to take in the lifters.

According to Signapan’s initial testimony submitted to the House panels, it was a certain Joel Maritana who reached out to her and even paid her P180,000 for receiving the shipment for him. Signapan, who maintained her innocence in congressional probes, claimed she did not know that Maritana was bringing in contraband despite the large payment. 

It turned out that Maritana was only a welder and scavenger in Cavite found by Guban. He paid Maritana P2,000 to have him sign an affidavit which cleared Signapan and himself.

Guban was apparently in cahoots with Signapan to take the lifters into the country, and was preparing for the worst.

When that time came – in the Senate probe in September – Signapan said Guban threatened her and told her to follow a narrative to clear him. Guban allegedly told Signapan that he had companions “who knew how to hold guns.”

Guban has also been linked to the two magnetic lifters found at the Manila International Container Port which contained shabu worth P2.4 billion (earlier estimated to be worth P4.3 billion).

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, said it was "suspicious" that when the abandoned magnetic lifters were found, Guban knew how to open them more than his superiors in order to find the illegal drugs.

Guban would later admit before lawmakers at the House of Representatives that he had advance information about the P2.4-billion shabu shipment, but chose to withhold it from his bosses and colleagues. Before his colleagues opened the lifters, he was already certain that the lifters were packed with drugs.

Guban, however, was not alone in facilitating the shipments. He was only a part of the so-called “triumvirate” allegedly behind the magnetic lifters shipment.

Who his friends are

Guban is friends with two of the former law enforcers named in Duterte’s drug matrix who held the highest ranks back in service: dismissed police Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto and sacked PDEA deputy chief Ismael Fajardo.

Guban first met Fajardo when he studied at the Philippine College of Criminology. They were classmates.

As Fajardo eventually became an anti-drug cop, he met Acierto, a veteran anti-drug policeman. The 3 forged their relationship in anti-drug operations, Guban said, when they had gotten their assignments in their respective law enforcement agencies.

Naging common friends na po kaming magkakasama sa law enforcement (We became common friends working in law enforcement),” he said in a House hearing. 

Testifying under oath at a House hearing, Guban claimed that Acierto ordered him to look for consignee SMYD Trading for “intelligence operations” even if consignee-for-hire schemes are prohibited.

Guban admitted he received at least P10,000 from Acierto for assembling the shipment of magnetic lifters for SMYD Trading.

Asked why he followed Acierto and received money, Guban replied, “‘Yun po ay normal na nangyayari sa Bureau of Customs (That normally happens at the Bureau of Customs).”

Would Guban be willing to challenge that norm and tell all? – 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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