Ombudsman probes P6.4-B shabu smuggling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — Almost six months into the controversy, the Office of the Ombudsman joins other government bodies in investigating the smuggling of a P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China.

The Ombudsman on Tuesday said it has created a panel to conduct a fact-finding probe on the 604-kilogram drug shipment that passed through the Bureau of Customs (BOC) last May.

"The order of the Ombudsman is in line with the President's recent pronouncement for independent agencies to investigate the matter," the Ombudsman said in a statement.

President Rodrigo Duterte on October 31 said he is leaving it up to the independent agencies to look into supposed anomalies at the BOC, including corruption allegations against two members of his family.

Hearings at the Senate and the House of Representatives revealed the multi-billion shipment may have been facilitated by corrupt Customs employees and aliases who are members of the so-called "Davao Group."

A fixer, Mark Taguba, said "Davao Group" members dropped the names of presidential son Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law Mans Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. They were accused of peddling influence at the BOC.

The two First Family members denied the accusations.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, one of the staunchest critics of the Duterte administration, said he will submit a report urging the Ombudsman to include Vice Mayor Duterte in its probe.

"Ako’y naniniwala ang utak diyan sa importation na 'yan e si Paolo Duterte kaya isa-submit ko ito at para maisama dun sa investigation ng Ombudsman," Trillanes said.

[Translation: "I believe Paolo Duterte is behind the importation so I will submit this for the Ombudsman to include in its investigation."]

Trillanes is a member of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which recommended a lifestyle check on the two members of the presidential family over their alleged links to smuggling.

Read more: Lifestyle check on Vice-Mayor Duterte, Mans Carpio sought

What we know so far

The controversial shabu shipment, one of the biggest hauls of smuggled drugs in the country, passed through the BOC as kitchenware last May 17.

It took the BOC more than a week to discover the unhampered entry of drugs, which were delivered to two warehouses in Valenzuela City on May 24.

At dawn on May 26, customs officials found the bags of shabu hidden in five solid steel cylinders used in printing presses, each a foot in diameter.

LOOK: How ₱6.4B-worth of shabu was shipped from China to PH

The National Bureau of Investigation in August filed drug charges against Chinese, Taiwanese, and Filipino businessmen involved in the shipment.

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña has since replaced Nicanor Faeldon, who was also accused of receiving "tara" or payoffs.

Faeldon has dismissed the allegations, and has since been detained at the Senate for skipping its legislative hearings.

Read more: Drugs and 'tara': What we know about Customs mess