Senate keeping ex-customs officer despite Duterte arrest order
Former customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban is now a witness in the Senate’s inquiry into the recent massive “shabu” (crystal meth) smuggling and would not be turned over to the authorities until he gets accepted into the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP), according to Sen. Richard Gordon.
Gordon was reacting to President Duterte’s order to arrest Guban and place him in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation for his alleged involvement in the smuggling of P11 billion worth of shabu through the Port of Manila.
“I respect the President, but we do follow certain rules and part of that would be to make sure that the status of Congress as a coequal branch of government be respected. The status quo, I reiterate, must be respected at the moment,” Gordon told reporters.
Gordon said Guban, who had resigned from the Bureau of Customs, would remain under “voluntary confinement” in the Senate for his safety and security because of “threats to his life” from the people he had implicated.
“Without him, there’s no case,” the senator added.
Guban was ordered detained in the Senate in September after Gordon cited him in contempt for lying and being evasive during the inquiry.
He was turned into a witness and placed under protective custody after he told all at the latest hearing earlier this month.
What Guban knew
Gordon said Guban decided to disclose what he knew, including his admission that he had looked for a consignee for the imported magnetic lifters that contained the shabu on orders of former police officer Eduardo Acierto.
Guban also implicated former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency official Ismael Fajardo, among other people, Gordon added.
Two weeks ago, Malacañang released a “special report” saying Guban, Acierto and Fajardo, along with four other police officers, were part of a drug syndicate.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III also on Thursday said the Senate would continue holding Guban in custody until the police showed a warrant of arrest for the former customs intelligence officer.
“Senator Gordon and the committee members will surely object if Guban is taken by the PNP (Philippine National Police) into custody without a warrant,” he added.
Sotto also pointed out that Guban was a “vital witness” in the Senate investigation.
“He should be secured properly,” he added.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Guban could be covered by the WPP once criminal cases were filed against those found liable for the shabu smuggling.
He also said Guban was a “vital witness” and would be brought to the custody of the NBI after the Senate concluded its inquiry.
“Mr. Guban shall be considered for coverage under the witness protection program upon full compliance with all the requirements under the WPP law,” Guevarra told reporters on Thursday.
“The NBI will conduct further investigation on the basis of the Senate committee report and file the appropriate complaints as the evidence will warrant,” he added.
PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said Guban would not be arrested until a court issued a warrant for his arrest.
Albayalde, who was in Boracay ahead of the reopening of the resort island on Friday, told reporters the filing of a case against Guban depended on the outcome of the Senate investigation. —WITH REPORTS FROM MAILA AGER, TINA G. SANTOS, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN AND GABRIEL PABICO LALU
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