After Taguba, trader next to fall in P6.4-B ‘shabu’ case
The owner of the company that received the P6.4-billion “shabu” (crystal meth) shipment that slipped through the Bureau of Customs (BOC) last year was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation following Wednesday’s surrender of alleged Customs fixer and coaccused Mark Taguba.
On Friday, Eirene Mae Tatad, owner of EMT Trading, the consignee of the drugs, was nabbed by NBI agents in Iloilo province after she, Taguba and six others were ordered arrested by Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa.
NBI Western Visayas director Max Salvador said operatives of the NBI central office who arrived Friday morning along with agents from the regional office arrested Tatad at an undisclosed location in Janiuay town, about 33 kilometers north of Iloilo City.
A sibling of Tatad accompanied the NBI agents at the prearranged location, according to Salvador. They then proceeded to the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan, which is a neighboring town of Janiuay, and took a commercial flight to Manila around 10 a.m.
Tatad is one of the 12 facing charges of illegal drug importation and transportation filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the shabu shipment. Also indicted were Taguba, Philippine Hongfei Logistics Group of Companies Richard Chen/Tan, Manny Li, Kenneth Dong, Teejay Marcellana, Taiwanese nationals Chen I-Min, Jhu Ming Jyun, Chen Rong Huan and three John Does.
However, Tatad maintained her innocence before the media at the NBI headquarters in Manila.
“I just want to clarify, I did not go into hiding. I only learned about the order to arrest me (on Thursday). I was in Iloilo because I took a vacation from stress after our Valenzuela case was dismissed,” Tatad said.
She was referring to the original charges filed by the DOJ against them before the Valenzuela RTC last year. This was dismissed with finality by Branch 171 Judge Nena Santos in December, citing lack of jurisdiction over the case as the importation was consummated in the port of Manila and not Valenzuela.
The DOJ refiled the charges in the Manila RTC last week.
According to the Senate inquiry into the smuggling case last year, Tatad’s importing firm was allegedly used as a dummy consignee by Taguba to receive the 602.2-kilogram shabu shipment from China.
Taguba and Tatad both denied knowledge of the contents of the shipment, which was coursed through the BOC’s “express lane.”
Taguba, who was under legislative custody in the Senate, surrendered to the bureau on Wednesday after learning of the warrant.
Tatad’s lawyer Emmanuel Solis said they planned to exhaust all legal remedies to answer the charges filed against her.
“We are still studying our next move. We will discuss what to do next [whether we would file a petition to dismiss or continued detention with the NBI] later. We have only touched base for 20 minutes [since she arrived],” Solis said.
Tatad was flown in from Iloilo this morning and arrived in Manila at midday, said NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin.
It was Tatad’s brother-in-law who convinced her to go with the NBI, according to Jonathan Galicia, commander of the task force that arrested her.
Galicia said they located Tatad as soon as the warrant was out as her Iloilo residence was her lone address in the province.
On Friday, Taguba has been ordered transferred to Manila City Jail after a Manila RTC dismissed his motion for continued detention in the NBI for security reasons.
Judge Montesa ruled that Taguba be detained at the city jail pending trial.
Montesa ruled that the NBI had no mandate in detaining individuals who were awaiting trial.
She also said there was no evidence of threat to Taguba’s life just yet.
Nick Suarez, NBI public information officer, confirmed that the bureau received the commitment order to transfer Taguba to the city jail. He will be transferred on Monday.
Raymond Fortun, Taguba’s legal counsel, said they would file a motion for reconsideration before the court “in view of the nature of his testimony (during the Senate inquiry into the smuggling case) which places his life in danger.”
During the Senate probe, Taguba exposed corruption and smuggling activities in the BOC, which prompted the resignation of several top BOC officials, including Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.
Taguba also linked then Davao City Vice Mayor and the President’s eldest son Paolo “Polong” Duterte to drug smuggling, but later backtracked.
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