Clearing of Lapeña in ‘shabu’ mess questioned
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Tuesday said the sincerity of the Duterte administration’s antidrug campaign might be put into question because of a Senate committee’s decision to clear former Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña of any responsibility in the P11-billion “shabu” (crystal meth) smuggling scandal at the Port of Manila.
VACC president Arsenio Evangelista said Lapeña, who now heads the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, should not be allowed to go scot-free because it was on his watch that four magnetic lifters believed to contain 1.6 tons of shabu slipped past the Bureau of Customs at Manila International Container Terminal (MICT).
“Lapeña should be held liable by virtue of command responsibility and for allegedly covering up the suspected shabu haul, which would make him an accessory to the crime,” Evangelista told the Inquirer.
Drug smuggling easy
On Monday, the Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Sen. Richard Gordon cleared Lapeña of responsibility in the biggest shabu smuggling scandal to rock the Duterte administration, whose signature program is a war on drugs that has taken the lives of thousands of mostly small-time drug peddlers and users but has yet to smash any narcotics trafficking ring.
The blue ribbon committee ended its inquiry into the shabu smuggling scandal after several hearings, finding that it was easy to slip illegal drugs into the Philippines because law enforcement officials aided the smugglers.
“The invasion of drugs in this country is very, very serious, especially because we’re either lax or some people are involved within the uniformed services,” Gordon told reporters on Monday.
“It’s so easy to bring in drugs. You just have to talk to a few people,” he said.
Gordon said he would send the evidence his committee had collected to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
“I hope they will look at it and make it a guide and make themselves a deadline for filing of cases,” he said.
Gordon said charges should be filed against former officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), as well as the consignees of the magnetic lifters, which were found abandoned in a warehouse in Cavite province on Aug. 8, a day after two lifters were found at MICT containing shabu worth P4.3 billion.
He was referring to sacked PDEA deputy chief Ismael Fajardo and dismissed Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto.
Former customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban, who admitted his involvement in the drug smuggling, would be a state witness in the case, Gordon said.
The senator did not recommend criminal charges against Lapeña, saying he did not think the former customs chief was involved in the controversy.
VACC earlier urged President Rodrigo Duterte to put Lapeña on floating status while his role in the smuggling was under investigation.
‘Where are the big fish?’
It lamented that more than two years into the war on drugs, the government had been able to apprehend and kill only “small fry.”
“Where are the big fish? Where is the whiff of corruption that you promised to detect and eliminate, Mr. President,” Evangelista asked in October. —WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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