Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday, May 29, slammed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for allowing the public auction of P1 billion worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, calling the officials of the agencies “corrupt” and “incompetent.”
In his privilege speech titled “What a Mess: A Dumping Ground of Garbage and Drugs,” the senator alleged that the auction on April 22 of three shipping containers supposedly with 114 bags of tapioca starch kept in aluminum pallets was a cover-up of a botched drug delivery by BOC officials.
“Let’s assume for a while that we are buying their story. Is the BOC legally allowed to subject prohibited goods to public sale or auction? No matter how they twist their story, the version of the BOC and PDEA of what happened is really very murky,” Lacson said.
Last week, PDEA released an announcement about recovering some 146 kilos of shabu from Cambodia at the Goldwin Commercial Warehouse in Malabon City.
A warehouse worker reportedly discovered the shabu, and reported the matter to the PDEA.
According to PDEA chief Aaron Aquino, the drugs were allegedly from the Golden Triangle international drug syndicate, and were linked to the shabu seized earlier this year in Dasmariñas and Tanza, both in Cavite, worth P244 million and P1.9 billion, respectively.
A statement was issued by the BOC saying the shipment was forfeited in favor of the government on March 1 after the consignee’s failure to file an import entry with Customs.
It also confirmed that its joint inspections of the three containers with PDEA led them to verify that the shipment indeed contained illegal drugs.
However, instead of immediately seizing the illegal shipment, the two agencies decided to have the drugs auctioned off in the hopes of drawing out drug syndicate members who might bid for the shabu.
The sting scheme was called “controlled delivery” but Lacson said: “Controlled Delivery, my foot.”
The senator questioned the two agencies’ story as Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act not only excludes prohibited goods to be disposed by public auction but also mandates their destruction seized by the BOC.
“Again, assuming that we believe their ‘controlled delivery’ story – which we of course do not – did Customs and PDEA officials really expect the owners of this shipment to actually participate in the said public auction, knowing fully well that forfeited and seized commodities undergo 100 percent physical examination prior to disposition?” he asked.
Lacson proceeded to say that he has pieced the “real story” together based on some documents and the schemes that the Senate uncovered in previous investigations into the entry of illegal drugs through the BOC.
He cited a report signed by PDEA regional director III Joel Plaza dated March 11 that stated “…the specimens submitted do not contain any dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals.”
On May 22, the shipment was given to the winning bidder and shipped off to the warehouse at 89 F. Santos St., Santolan, Malabon City.
PDEA reported that during the cleaning and washing of the commodity, one of the aluminum pallets accidentally fell off and exposed aluminum foil that contained the illegal drugs.
“It does not take much to figure out the holes in the plot that some not-so-smart characters in these agencies tried to fabricate – but failed miserably. Simply put, this is a case of dishonesty with the intention of misleading the public,” Lacson said.
He also noted that the smuggling of drugs through the agency continues unabated despite several changes in the BOC leadership.
According to the senator, he has sources that confirmed certain departments in the BOC continue to take their “tara” (grease money) ranging from P5,000 to P50,000 per container.
Lacson urged BOC Commissioner Ray Leonardo Guerrero to act immediately and decisively on the illegal activities in his agency that is assisting the entry of such a huge volume of drugs.