Customs exec insists ‘magnetic lifters contained shabu’

MANILA — Deputy Customs Collector Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang on Wednesday stood firm on her claim the shipment of magnetic lifters found in a Cavite warehouse did contain illegal drugs that slipped past the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Mangaoang made the statement during the House dangerous drugs committee’s inquiry into the PHP6.8-billion alleged shabu (crystal meth) smuggling.

Mangaoang, former X-ray division chief of the BOC, disclosed that the X-ray images indicate something was inside the magnetic lifters.

“As an image analyst, nanindigan ho ako na may laman ito (I am standing firm that the lifters contained something),” Mangaoang said, however noting that the contents cannot be determined simply based on analysis of the images.

Further citing her experience as a “seasoned investigator”, Mangaoang also alleged the containers were packed with shabu based on testimonies and other evidence presented in the Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry, to which she was invited as an “expert witness.”

“Based on the investigation conducted by PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), and the documentary, physical, and testimonial evidence which were presented in the Senate and as a seasoned investigator… on the basis of my other experiences, ang sinasabi ko poshabu ang laman niyan (what I’m trying to say is that the lifters contained shabu),” Mangaoang told the House panel.

This is contrary to the BOC’s position that no shabu was found in the containers, after testing negative for illegal drugs.

The PDEA, meanwhile, said the four magnetic lifters contained a ton of shabu based on the detection of its drug-sniffing dog.

During the same hearing, BOC X-ray inspector John Mar Morales insisted the magnetic lifters were empty when they passed through the Manila International Container Port.

Morales said the X-ray scans show that the hollow part of the containers are not dense, meaning they did not contain anything.

Kita ko na walang makitang dense talaga, na nagsasabing walang laman (I didn’t see anything dense at all, which means that there was nothing inside),” Morales said.

Mangaoang earlier claimed that the Customs chief could be involved in covering-up for drug smugglers.

During the hearing, Lapeña denied any “cover-up”, noting that these allegations are “imputed with malice.”