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P6.8-B ‘shabu’ smuggling: BOC men probed

MAGNETIC LIFTERS An agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency secures as evidence the magnetic lifters used to smuggle a ton of “shabu” worth P6.8 billion at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite province, on Friday. The law enforcers found only traces of the illegal drug in themagnetic lifters. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) on Sunday said it would investigate reports that people from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) had conspired with smugglers to bring a ton of crystal meth, or “shabu,” into the Philippines.

The shabu smuggling was discovered by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Friday, after narcs found four magnetic lifters with traces of the illegal drug in a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite province.

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The discovery came three days after the BOC seized an abandoned freight container at Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) that yielded two magnetic lifters containing 500 kilograms of shabu worth P4.3 million.

Authorities believed the magnetic lifters came in as one shipment from Taiwan.

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Worth P6.8B

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said the shabu in the magnetic lifters found in Cavite was estimated to have weighed 1 ton, worth P6.8 billion.

The discovery came a year after P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China slipped through the BOC at the Port of Manila, also allegedly with the cooperation of customs employees.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Sunday that the government was “working with foreign counterparts” in the investigation of the drug smuggling.

Roque said the latest incident was a sign that big-time drug traffickers were becoming bolder, as the local supply dwindled under pressure from the government through President Duterte’s war on drugs.

In a statement, PACC Commissioner Manuelito Luna said the commission would investigate the “reported collusion” of corrupt people at the BOC with drug smugglers.

He said the PACC found the alleged collusion “very disturbing” and would “not take this sitting down.”

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BOC officials to be summoned

The PACC, he said, would summon several people from the BOC for questioning.

Luna said the commission would not hesitate to recommend to the President “the firing of public officials found to be remiss in the performance of [their duty] or, worse, acted in conspiracy with smugglers in facilitating the entry of contraband.”

The PDEA’s Aquino said the shabu was already “circulating in the streets” when the smuggling was discovered.

Lawmakers were aghast at the repeat of last year’s smuggling through the BOC that led to a Senate investigation and a reorganization at the bureau.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who tussled with BOC officials during last year’s investigation, said on Twitter on Sunday: “God Almighty, keep the people in low-lying areas safe from the floods; may the flood wash away the ton of shabu that slipped through the Bureau of Customs.”

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said on Sunday that the repeat of last year’s scandal at the BOC showed that Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs had failed to deal with the supply side of the country’s narcotics problem.

“While he has been very harsh on small-time users and drug suspects, the President never got angry [with] those who have been flooding the country with illegal drugs,” Alejano told the Inquirer by phone.

“It’s puzzling, and you can see that his war on drugs is really a failure,” Alejano said.

Foreign sources

“While thousands of Filipinos have been killed, the administration has failed to [stem] the supply side. He did not even call out the foreign [sources] of [shabu], especially China. It was met by a deafening silence from the President,” he said.

Alejano noted that while President Duterte kept threatening to kill drug users and pushers, he never cracked the whip on officials at agencies implicated in drug smuggling.

In fact, he said, Mr. Duterte defended former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon during last year’s Senate investigation then transferred him to the Department of National Defense.

Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said on Sunday that the latest failure of the BOC and the PDEA to prevent drug smuggling into the Philippines should prompt the President to reconsider his approach to combating the drug menace.

Erice said countries that launched bloody drug wars only made the drug trade “more lucrative,” as the crackdown pushed prices up.

He said Mr. Duterte should consider replicating the strategy of Portugal, which focused on rehabilitation of users and proved to be the “most successful in the world.”

Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said the late discovery of the shabu smuggling underscored the lack of coordination among government agencies in the fight against the smuggling of drugs into the country.

“If big amounts of shabu [are] still being shipped into the country, it only means the drug operators are still scot-free,” Villarin said.

“It’s also a reflection of the failure of the [Duterte administration’s] campaign against illegal drugs,” he said.

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TAGS: Aaron Aquino, Bureau of Customs, drug smuggling, Harry Roque, Manuelito Luna, P6.8-billion shabu shipment, PACC, PDEA, war on drugs
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