2 more magnetic lifters found; lawmakers seek probe
Two more magnetic lifters were seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Wednesday amid fears that they may again have been used to smuggle billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs into the country.
BOC spokesperson Dino Austria said the magnetic lifters consigned to Wan Chiong Steel Corp. were flagged because they were “misdeclared” as industrial overhead cranes.
It was later ruled out that the lifters, which arrived at the Port of Manila from China on Aug. 8, had contained illegal drugs although the BOC did not puncture them to check their contents because Customs did not find “anything unusual” in their X-ray inspection.
“There’s no cause to open [them] because doing so would irreparably damage the machine and [that] would be charged against the government,” Austria said.
Four magnetic lifters were earlier found in Cavite by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) which maintained that they had contained drugs, based on the reaction of its drug-sniffing dogs.
But following President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement on Tuesday that the supposed drug findings had been mere “speculation,” PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon said the matter had been “settled” in the congressional hearing on Tuesday, and that the PDEA had been “admonished to move forward and collaborate with the BOC.”
When asked via text message whether the PDEA still maintained there was “shabu” (crystal meth) in the magnetic lifters discovered in Cavite, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino had responded with a curt, “Yes.”
The discovery of the lifters in Cavite came shortly after 355 kilograms or P2.4 billion worth of shabu were found in two magnetic lifters in a Manila port.
In the Senate, Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao filed a resolution pursuing a Senate inquiry into the matter and said he would keep pushing for the death penalty for big-time drug pushers.
Senators from the minority bloc also filed a resolution to conduct a similar inquiry and said a probe was urgent, considering that the massive drug haul might already be circulating in the streets.
Also on Wednesday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told the BOC to intensify its watch against the entry of illegal products, including drugs. —With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil, Ben O. de Vera, Julie M. Aurelio and Leila B. Salaverria