Magnetic lifters | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

Magnetic lifters

/ 05:22 AM October 25, 2018

Magnetic lifters — what are they and what are they for besides being, uhm, containers for contraband? I have never seen one except in pictures recently. It shocked me that drug smugglers could really find all means to enhance their illegal activities. Nothing is spared.

Magnetic lifters have been in the news lately, not because of their use in heavy industries, but because a number of these imported metal objects are now being used to smuggle in illegal drugs, such as crystal meth or “shabu” amounting to billions of pesos.


No sooner have most of us heard about these heavy, thick metal magnetic lifters for the first time in connection with drugs than a conflagration erupted, with no less than an official of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) raising a howl about how more drugs were in fact smuggled in via magnetic lifters but were not, uhm, detected.

BOC’s former X-ray inspection chief Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang boldly came forward to accuse Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña of ignoring her alert that a drug shipment was once again going through customs. (A previous one had been foiled, establishing the fact that imported magnetic lifters are being used for shabu shipments and, therefore, customs examiners should watch out for them.)


Mangaoang was quoted as having told Lapeña: “Sir, may lamang shabu ’yang magnetic lifters. Pero nagulat ako dahil hindi siya umaksyon. (Sir, there is shabu in the magnetic lifters. But I was surprised that he did not take action.)”

She also said: “Dogs don’t lie, X-ray machines don’t lie. I am very sure it was deliberate because that is the modus operandi, so the examiner cannot see what is inside the containers that were not declared, they deliberately darken the image.”

According to an Oct. 21 Inquirer report by Jovic Yee, Mangaoang said customs and drug enforcement personnel were working together as early as May on building a case against possible drug shipments from four Asian countries, belying claims that the BOC had no prior information about a plan to smuggle shabu into the country.

Six magnetic lifters believed to contain shabu had been allowed in the country. Two that arrived in June and abandoned at the Manila International Container Terminal were opened on Aug. 7 and found to contain P3.4 billion worth of shabu. Four identical lifters found in a warehouse in Cavite on Aug. 8 were found already emptied of their contents—an estimated P6.8 billion worth.

What are magnetic lifters? I was curious, so I did some research. I found some useful information from several sites, among them, the Health and Safety Executive website and PRI, a manufacturer.

PRI described magnetic lifters as “workhorse(s) in many industries, including the recycling, metalworking, mining, construction and demolition industries.”

These electrically activated devices are highly powerful and are able to lift many tons of metal at once. I read that a 245-kilogram magnetic lifter can lift 1 to 20 tons of metal. I’ll skip the physics side of them — magnetic fields, atoms aligning and all that, when they are activated, what makes them work—stuff that are rather discombobulating for me.


The seized magnetic lifters we have been seeing in pictures are the big circular types. Depending on the type and size, circular magnetic lifters can cost from $1,000 to $5,000 each, which is peanuts when they are loaded with drugs worth billions.

Ho-hum. In President Duterte’s so-called war against drugs, the big fish in drug smuggling are spared but the small fry end up in the morgues. The big ‘uns ought to be stuffed inside these lifters so that they get fried in there.

With Mangaoang emerging out of the shadows, I am reminded of the Inquirer’s Filipinos of the Year for 2014: Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido Tan—the so-called “The Three Furies.” I remember, too, the defiant Heidi Mendoza of the COA.

Another woman to raise the alarm and defy. As a wit said on Facebook, it would not be surprising if soon an “archaeological excavation” would be done to rake up stuff to smear Mangaoang’s image and render her credibility questionable. It is now Mangaoang’s word against Lapeña and company.

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, Human Face, Isidro Lapeña, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang, Rodrigo Duterte, shabu shipment, war on drugs
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