President still trusts Customs chief as NBI probes missing ‘shabu’
President Duterte still trusts Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña despite the allegations that P6.8 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) has slipped into the country with the cooperation of people at his agency.
Malacañang said on Thursday that the National Bureau of Investigation was still investigating the drug smuggling that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) believed happened earlier this year.
“The President has not said anything about losing trust and confidence so the presumption is he has the full trust and confidence of the President,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Thursday.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino has been calling for Lapeña to be made accountable if the drug smuggling can be proved.
In August, the PDEA found four magnetic lifters that had traces of shabu in a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite province.
The discovery came days after the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized an abandoned freight container at Manila International Container Terminal that yielded two magnetic lifters containing 500 kilos of shabu.
Aquino said the magnetic lifters found by his agency in Cavite had contained 1 ton of shabu worth P6.8 billion.
The General Mariano Alvarez police said the magnetic lifters arrived in the town on July 15, two days after residents saw Chinese-looking men unloading luggage at the warehouse.
The customs bureau disputed the PDEA’s claim of drug smuggling.
Lapeña told the dangerous drugs committee of the House of Representatives that the magnetic lifters found in Cavite had tested negative for drugs.
Undetected by BOC
Aquino conceded that it was too early to call for heads to roll because the NBI was still investigating, but said Lapeña should be held accountable for the smuggling.
The PDEA maintains that large amounts of shabu are smuggled into the Philippines undetected by the customs bureau.
Panelo gave assurance that the Duterte administration would make a decision once the NBI had completed its investigation.
Earlier, the President dismissed as “pure speculation” Aquino’s claim that 1 ton of shabu had slipped past the customs bureau.
Aquino went on an unannounced leave on Aug. 16.
But pressing its claim, the PDEA on Sept. 10 honored with a medal a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois that had detected shabu in the magnetic lifters found in Cavite.
The dog’s handler, Ryan Collantes, was also presented with a medal of honor. —REPORTS FROM JULIE M. AURELIO AND INQUIRER RESEARCH
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.