PDEA made ‘crucial mistake’ not quickly sharing shabu intel with Customs

Rambo Talabong

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PDEA made ‘crucial mistake’ not quickly sharing shabu intel with Customs

Ben Nabong

The suspect shipment was already taken out of the Manila International Container Port when the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency relayed the information to the customs bureau

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) made a “crucial mistake” in belatedly sharing intelligence information with the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Antipolo 2nd District Representative Romeo Acop said on Tuesday, August 14.

This is the reason, Acop said, the government is now scrambling to look for an estimated 1,000 kilograms of shabu (methamphetamine) allegedly stuffed in magnetic lifters found empty in a warehouse in Cavite.

“That was the crucial mistake. Because information is supposed to be timely. Hindi timely ang information ninyo (your information is not timely), that’s why this happened,” Acop, a retired police general, told top PDEA officials during the House probe into the alleged smuggling.

What late information? The PDEA had information as early as July 16 on a huge shabu shipment entering the Philippines, but it only relayed the information to Customs chief Isidro Lapeña on July 18.

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino earlier said they did not want to give unverified intel, but Acop said the point of information-sharing with other government agencies was to have the raw information validated.

“You did not ask Customs…or even the PNP.  You did not do that, and that’s part of the process of trying to evaluate information,” Acop said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Acop himself is a veteran in handling intelligence information, being a retired general of the Philippine National Police.

Why does this matter? BOC has repeatedly said it could have tracked down the magnetic lifters sooner if it had information that these were “suspect” deliveries.

The questioned lifters was subject to a “non-intrusive examination,” which involved an X-ray scan without opening the package.

“Without any intelligence received that there is anything that is inside these magnetic lifters, it would be impossible for us to determine what the contents inside really are,” Customs spokesman Erastus Austria said in their August 11 briefing on the controversial shipment.

Information still late: Even PDEA’s information on July 16 is late, however. (READ: How P6.8-B ‘shabu’ slipped past PNP, PDEA, Customs)

The magnetic lifters allegedly containing 1,000 kilograms of shabu had been taken out of the Manila International Container Terminal on July 14 or two full days after PDEA got hold of intelligence on a questionable shipment. – Rappler.com

Watch the hearing here: 
LIVE: House hearing on P6.8-billion shabu smuggled from China, Taiwan 

Read other stories from the hearing: 


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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.