Guevarra orders NBI probe on seized magnetic lifters in Cavite

MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct parallel probe in connection with the recent discovery of four magnetic lifters which were used in shabu smuggling in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite.

Guevarra said he has directed NBI director Dante Gierran to form a team of agents to investigate and determine how the contraband reportedly contained in the seized magnetic lifters in Cavite was successfully smuggled.

“I have directed the NBI to investigate the latest incidents of drug smuggling. considering the huge value of the illegal drugs involved, and the relative ease by which they were as ported into Philippine territory,” Guevarra said in a text message sent to reporters Monday.

In his order, Guevarra specifically directed the NBI to trace how the latest shabu shipment was able to pass through the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and identify the officials and personalities responsible for it.

“Our investigation will consider all govt agencies, particularly the BOC, and private shippers, brokers, cargo handlers, warehousemen, even other law enforcement agents, who may have something to do with these unlawful acts,” he noted.

If warranted, the NBI will file charges against those who will be found criminally liable for the drug smuggling.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said the seized equipment are similar to the seized magnetic lifters, which contained around 500 kilos of illegal drugs, at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) in Manila on August 7.

However, Aquino said upon the inspection of the PDEA and PNP last Wednesday, the magnetic lifters in Cavite were already empty.

“This only proves that these magnetic lifters were used to bring in illegal drugs inside our country. PDEA and PNP (Philippine National Police) believe that this is part of the shipment intercepted last Tuesday in MICT,” he added.

Aquino said PDEA estimated that these four magnetic lifters contained approximately 1,000 kilos or a ton of shabu with an estimated value of PHP6.8 billion.

“This is very saddening PHP6.8 billion worth of illegal drug are now circulating anew in our streets,” he noted.

Aquino said law enforcers are continuously conducting backtracking investigation to determine the personalities involved in the operation.

“Initially, we have at least 19 persons of interest including 11 Chinese nationals. We cannot reveal their names yet because of our continuous operations,” Aquino said adding the PDEA also obtained several documents, including various documents, checks, shipping documents and CCTV footage.

Initial information revealed that the illegal drugs came from Taiwan, Republic of China and the syndicate only used Malaysia as transshipment point, Aquino said.

To be recalled, a similar incident involving smuggling of P6.4-billion shabu shipment hounded the BOC last year that led to criminal investigation against former commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

Faeldon resigned from his post in BOC and was reappointed as deputy administrator of Office of Civil Defense last January.

The NBI, however, did not investigate that case reportedly due to a Palace memorandum that tapped the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as sole agency in drug-related operations and case buildups.

But since the NBI has been allowed to resume its anti-narcotics operations late last year, it is now allowed to again conduct fact-finding probe on drug cases, Guevarra explained.

On Saturday, BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said paramount in increasing the effectiveness of border protection in the suppression of smuggling is the “timely receipt of intelligence information from the lead agencies, primarily tasked to eliminate illegal drugs in the country, and the close coordination with proper authorities between agencies.”

Lapeña identified the consignee of the shipment as SMYD Trading, discovered in Cavite, which according to the PDEA contains some one ton of “shabu” estimated to be worth PHP6.8 billion.

“As a result of our backtracking investigation, it was identified that it was consigned to SMYD Trading, owned by Marina Dela Cruz Signapan with customs broker Katrina Grace Cuasay, declared the shipment as magnetic lifter,” he said. “The shipment passed through the normal procedure. It was tagged red, had been x-rayed and examined, but, as what PDEA had said, the drugs inside it cannot be detected.”

The Cavite shipment was reported to authorities a day after the BOC seized two magnetic lifters containing some 500 kilos of “shabu” worth PHP4.3 billion at the Manila International Container Port (MICP), where the Cavite shipment also came from.

But Aquino said his office and the Philippine National Police initially received raw data but stressed that all information were subjected to validation.

“Once it’s complete then we can share intelligence which are confirmed and reliable. We can’t share informations that are considered as hearsays,” Aquino said in a statement.