Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are looking into the recent alleged smuggling of P6.8 billion worth of “shabu” or crystal meth from China, and the picture that’s emerging so far is not a pretty one: The very agencies in the frontline of the Duterte administration’s centerpiece war on drugs seem to be the very ones undermining it.
The hearings so far have implicated not only personnel of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), for what appears to be a conspiracy with drug syndicates to spirit into the country almost a ton of shabu via four magnetic lifters that were later discovered empty in a warehouse in Cavite in August.
Now, even officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police have come under suspicion, too.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino revealed during the hearing of the House committees on dangerous drugs and good government that his deputy for administration, Ismael Fajardo Jr., had been relieved of his post on Sept. 14, after it came out that he knew about the questionable shipment.
Four unidentified active police officers and dismissed PNP Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto also became the subject of an investigation, after former Customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban said during the hearing that he had been coordinating with them on the magnetic lifters shipment in July.
Guban told the committees chaired by Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers and Camiguin Rep. Xavier Romualdo that it was Acierto who had asked him to look for a “for-hire” consignee — in this case, SMYD Trading — to sign off on the shipment.
Acierto’s name should be familiar to observers of the drug war.
Formerly the deputy director for administration of the PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, which was disbanded in January following the kidnapping and killing by cops of South Korean national Jee Ick-joo right inside Camp Crame, Acierto was dismissed from service in August in relation to an Ombudsman case on the PNP-Firearms and Explosives Office’s anomalous issuance of licenses for AK-47 rifles from 2011 to 2013.
Aquino’s testimony not only fingered such personalities, but also raised an alarming scenario — that earlier successful interceptions of smuggled shabu by law enforcers may just be part of a bigger modus operandi by drug syndicates.
Some shipments would be deliberately caught, so that even more shipments of illegal drugs would get away.
To recall, 500 kilograms of shabu worth an estimated P3.4 billion that were concealed inside a large magnetic lifter were intercepted on Aug. 7 at the Manila International Container Terminal by combined operatives of the PDEA, PNP and BOC.
After this interception, on Aug. 9, the PDEA discovered four more magnetic lifters suspected of containing as much as a ton of shabu in a warehouse at Barangay F. Reyes in Governor Mariano Alvarez, Cavite.
Aquino noted at his press briefing that it was Guban, Acierto and Fajardo who had fielded “the raw information” of the “shabu” in the earlier shipment.
“They are the ones that investigated and conducted the investigation until the last… They were the ones who conducted the case buildup,” he said.
These damning revelations may end up giving Malacañang a headache. How to square them, after all, with the Congress testimony of BOC chief Isidro Lapeña on Aug. 14, in which Lapeña claimed that BOC’s own swab tests on the empty magnetic lifters found inside the Cavite warehouse “tested negative for illegal drugs”?
Thus, the pronouncement that drugs are flooding the local market “has no basis,” Lapeña added.
That assurance apparently won the ear of President Duterte, because the President subsequently waded into the issue by declaring in a speech before businessmen that the PDEA report of another massive shabu haul was “pure speculation,” in effect dismissing the investigation of the lead agency in his drug war.
But what’s emerging from the hearings is a contrary picture — that this incident isn’t a product of imagination or conjecture, that much remains to be uncovered about its true and full dimensions, and that a thorough and transparent investigation into it is warranted, at the very least.
As things stand, with the growing testimony about possible criminal collusion among official circles in facilitating the P6.8-billion shabu hoard, this explosive case is proving to be anything but mere speculation.
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