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Rotten to the core

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok August 28,2017 - 11:22 PM


Disgrace has once again fallen on the Bureau of Customs after illegal narcotics worth P6.4 billion from China passed through the Manila International Container Port; but unlike other smuggling cases that rocked the BOC in the past, this time the controversy skinned off the scalp of the highest official in the bureau, Nicanor Faeldon.

The heat coming out of the narcotics smuggling controversy must be so terrible that Faeldon had to step down. Had he stuck to his guns, who knows who else would have been dragged to the conspiracy. If one looks closely, the smuggling of 604 kilos of shabu passing through the Customs bureau explains why the narcotics supply has not abated despite Pres. Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

The latest scandal reminds me of a similar case 16 years ago involving the disappearance of 100 kilos of shabu from the custody of the Customs Bureau in Manila. It was then Ilocos Norte Rep. Roque Ablan who exposed the case, prompting the House committee on dangerous drugs led by Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation.

Based on previous reports published by the Inquirer, the House probe yielded information that in November 2001, the National Bureau of Investigation received a tip from police counterparts in Seoul saying that 100 kilograms of shabu were bound for Manila via Hong Kong. According to then NBI Chief Reynaldo Wycoco the shipment will be hidden in a cargo of vermicelli or noodles and will be transported to Manila in a 40-foot container van.

The illegal cargo arrived in Manila on November 17, 2001 on board the vessel Manila Star. After two days in the Customs container yard, the shipment was released reportedly without the knowledge of the NBI and Customs officials.

It turned out that the NBI and Customs officials came up with a “controlled delivery operations,” supposedly a sting operation aimed to collar the drug smugglers once the contraband is delivered to their doorstep, in this case, in Guiguinto town in Bulacan.

To make the long story short, when the delivery trucks carrying the smuggled goods reached Bulacan, the suspects disappeared and government operatives found the van empty. If that doesn’t put the Keystone cops to shame, I don’t know what that is.

At the end of the legislative probe, Wycoco revealed information purportedly coming from South Korean police that the shipment did not contain 100 kilograms of shabu valued at P200 million but only a measly 500 grams worth P1 million. And that was the end of it. I don’t recall Congress recommending the filing of cases against NBI and Customs officials or who among them lost their jobs for failing to seize the contraband and collar the criminals.

In case Senator Panfilo Lacson missed it, there are parallels to the two cases that needed to be examined closely.

In the P6.4 billion shabu smuggling case, the info that illegal narcotics hidden in cargos of kitchenware entering the Manila International Container Port came from a police agent in Xiamen relayed to a Customs asset named Richard Tan who, according to whistleblower Mark Taguba, is actually the mastermind of the shabu caper.

The contraband containing 604 kilos of shabu arrived in May 16 and was released a week later. In the late hours of May 25, Richard Tan calls the Bureau of Customs telling them he received information about the hot cargo from the China Customs Ministry in Xiamen, allegedly an intelligence report by Zhang Xiaohui, the director of China’s International Enforcement Cooperation Division of the Anti-Smuggling Bureau.

The contraband was subsequently discovered and seized from two warehouses in Valenzuela City, Bulacan in May 26.

But here’s the catch. Because representatives from Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) were not present during the May 26 raid, the body of the crime, in this case, the 604 kilos of shabu are not admissible as evidence in court. In other words, the PDEA protocols are stacked against the state and conspirators in the BOC have really seen to it that no case can be filed against those behind the criminal act. That stated, will Congress now revisit the PDEA protocols to make it effective?

In both shabu smuggling cases, it is as if PH authorities were alerted, not to prepare to seize the hot cargo and arrest the criminals but to tell them a sizable contraband was on its way, one that carries with it huge “tara” that they can very well celebrate Christmas months in advance.

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