BOC chief continues to enjoy President’s confidence amid shabu shipment issue


Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña still has President Rodrigo Duterte’s trust even after a shipment of illegal drugs potentially worth P6.8 billion worth may have apparently slipped past Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel.

May tiwala siya kay General Lapeña, may tiwala siya sa PDEA [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency]. Inaasahan niya na magkakaroon nang mas malapit na ugnayan ang PDEA at Bureau of Customs dahil nanggaling naman po sa PDEA itong si General Lapeña (The President trusts General Lapeña, also the PDEA. He [the President] expects closer coordination between PDEA and BOC, considering General Lapeña also came from PDEA [before being appointed BOC chief]),” Roque said in a press briefing on August 13.

He said Duterte is “raring to apply the full force of the law against those behind these importations.”

On August 10, several empty magnetic scrap lifters which could have originally contained a ton of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) potentially worth P6.8 billion were discovered by PDEA.

The magnetic lifters were seized at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite. The development follows the BOC seizure of about 500 kilograms of shabu inside magnetic scrap lifters estimated to be worth P4.3 billion on August 7, one of its biggest seizures to date, at the Manila International Container Port (MICP).

Roque said using magnetic scrap lifters, the insides of which cannot be detected by x-rays, is a new modus showing that those behind the importation of illegal drugs are now using sophisticated means to bring in the contraband. He added there might also be a need to review BOC’s system and look at what steps could be taken further to prevent illegal drugs from slipping past customs custody.

Roque said investigation on the case is ongoing and has been tagged a priority by the President.

On Sunday, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission said it would investigate reports BOC personnel conspired with smugglers to bring the shabu shipments into the Philippines.

The Lower House Committee on Dangerous Drugs will also hold an investigation on August 14.

The method employed to supposedly import the P6.8-billion shabu shipment is similar to what was used in the Cavite warehouse hoard, leading PDEA director general Aaron Aquino to conclude that illegal drugs were the original content of the magnetic scrap lifters.

Aquino also said dogs detected traces of illegal drugs in the empty magnetic lifters, similar to the two earlier seized at MICP.

In a press conference on August 11, Lapeña said had BOC received information from other government agencies on the illegal shipments, they would never have been released.

An investigation by the customs bureau showed the shipment found in Cavite was consigned to SMYD Trading, owned by a certain Marina Dela Cruz Signapan, and customs broker Katrina Grace Cuasay, who declared the shipment as magnetic scrap lifter. The shipment was tagged red, had been x-rayed and examined, but, as PDEA noted, the illegal drugs inside could not be detected.

In a press conference on August 13, Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said they cannot yet confirm if the magnetic scrap lifters in Cavite really did contain a ton of shabu, or even if it contained shabu in the first place.

Lapeña last week recommended to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III the administrative relief of MICP district collector Atty Vener Baquiran. Former MICP deputy collector for Operations Michael Vargas is now the MICP officer-in-charge.