Lapeña to look into PHP11-B missing shabu ‘very seriously’

MANILA — Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña on Thursday vowed to look “very seriously” into a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) report that the missing “shabu” (crystal meth) in Cavite is worth PHP11 billion and not just PHP6.8 billion.

“We’ll take that very seriously and that’s why we have to concentrate our efforts in going after drug syndicates and go after this shipment that slipped past (BOC),” Lapeña said in a Palace press briefing.

He said he will coordinate with PDEA chief, Director General Aaron Aquino, on how PDEA came up with the estimate that the missing illegal drugs weighed 1.618 tons.

“I don’t’ know where the PHP11 billion was taken, but of course, it’s coming from the PDEA. Just look at the empty magnetic lifters. That will not result in PHP11 billion,” Lapeña said.

He said the weight of the “shabu” shipped to General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite through the four magnetic lifters could even be less than one ton.

“Half ton is even too many already. That is something very serious. What (was) said before was PHP6.8 billion. But we’ll take that seriously,” Lapeña promised.

Contrary to his previous statement, Lapeña said he is now convinced that the four magnetic lifters have been used to smuggle “shabu” into the country.

He said the presentation of the experts from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) during Wednesday’s hearing at the House of Representatives showed “circumstantial” evidence that the lifters are positive of illegal drugs.

When asked to comment on calls for him to resign, Lapeña said President Rodrigo Duterte gave him a marching order to increase the BOC’s revenue collection and stop corruption in one of the most graft-ridden offices of government.

“The President placed me there to accomplish the mission and that to stop corruption and increase revenue. I have been delivering and I still have to do a lot to accomplish that mission,” he said.

Lapeña said the BOC’s collection has reached an all-time high since he assumed office in August last year, a result of his fight against corruption “that has been besetting the BOC for many years now.”

He said that while the four magnetic lifters slipped past the BOC, the bureau was able to confiscate two lifters containing 355 kg. of “shabu”.

Lapeña also claimed that they have discovered a drug syndicate using some Customs personnel, among them intelligence officer Jimmy Guban, who allegedly facilitated the shipment of “shabu” found in Cavite.

“We (will) file charges that are appropriate in this case against those persons who are responsible,” he said.

Duterte has ordered the arrest of Guban for facilitating the “shabu” shipment.

The Customs chief said the BOC and PDEA are working closely to prevent the possible entry of another “shabu” shipment.

“We have been working with PDEA. So the impression that there is a rift, it’s not true, because we have an ongoing investigation. So the cooperation was there,” he said. “We have improved the system, process and capability in the bureau. I have also made a directive to have PDEA on board on scanning.”

Duterte has directed Lapeña and Aquino to stop blaming each other and focus on monitoring the smuggling of shabu into the country.

He described the two officials as men of good character and integrity.

After the press briefing, Lapeña went to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to give updates on the Customs’ activities, particularly regarding the campaign against corruption and illegal drugs.