PDEA chief ‘did not resign’
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino did not resign from his post but only took a scheduled leave of absence, according to the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“No, [he did not resign], that’s categorical,” said Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag, when asked if Aquino had resigned after he took an unannounced leave of absence early this week.
President Duterte had earlier dismissed as “pure speculation” the claim of Aquino that at least a ton of “shabu” (crystal meth), worth about P6.8 billion, had slipped past the Bureau of Customs following the discovery of empty magnetic lifters at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite, that supposedly contained the drugs.
Banaag made the clarification during Friday’s regular #RealNumbersPH press briefing, which provides updates on the accomplishments of the government’s war on drugs.
She said Aquino had “filed a vacation leave” even before news of the supposed drug smuggling through the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) broke out.
The NBI has dispatched a full task force, including forensic specialists, to investigate the supposed shipment, said spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin.
He said the investigation would prove every angle. “Where did the shipment come from? How was it shipped from origin to destination?” he said.
Residents and village officials of the barangay in General Mariano Alvarez where the magnetic lifters were seized are convinced that these had contained illegal items.
Barangay F. Reyes chair Roger Llames found it suspicious that the tenants of the warehouse were never seen again. The tenants rented the space in May to store “machineries” for six months, paying P600,000 in advance, he added.
Adrian Alvariño, chief of the PDEA-Calabarzon, on Friday declined to comment on the swab test on the magnetic lifters that reportedly turned out negative for shabu residue.
Chief Insp. Romulo dela Reya, the town police chief, said the magnetic lifters arrived in Cavite on July 15, two days after residents saw Chinese-looking men unloading 17 travel luggages at the warehouse.
Llames said it was only on Aug. 8 that local authorities learned of the lifters in the warehouse. This was after a forklift operator hired for the delivery of the lifters saw from news reports the 500 kilograms of shabu seized at the MICT on Aug. 7.
The drugs seized at MICT were concealed in two magnetic lifters that “looked very much like” those found in Cavite, Llames said.
“That night, when the [lifters] arrived, the forklift operator noticed someone grinding into lifter’s bottom,” he said.
At one point, the warehouse caretaker, a barangay watchman, said he tried to peek inside but was blocked by two “Chinese men” at the door. —WITH A REPORT FROM MARICAR CINCO
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