Duterte still trusts Customs chief – Roque

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Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commisioner Isidro Lapeña. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 13) — The President is not letting go of his Customs chief despite a multibillion-peso drug shipment that again slipped into the country undetected, Malacañang said Monday.

"Ang alam ko no, buo ang paniniwala pa rin at tiwala ni Presidente kay General Lapeña, at ang nais niyang mangyari is paano masususgpo ito nang matigil na itong praktis na ito," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a media briefing Monday.

[Translation: What I know is that the President has full trust in General Lapeña and all he wants to is stop this practice.]

Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, a retired police general, heads the Bureau of Customs (BOC). Officials said Customs authorities failed to seize ₱6.8 billion worth of methampetamine hydrochloride, locally called shabu, allegedly brought inside the country by a Taiwanese drug syndicate. The drugs were found in General Mariano Alvarez in Cavite.

Roque also defended the Customs Bureau for failing to flag down the drugs stored in magnetic filter containers. Lapeña earlier said they did not receive intelligence reports about the contraband.

"'Yung circumstance kasi, napakahirap mahanap talaga (ang shabu) dahil sa x-ray di lumalabas 'yan eh kapag nasa loob 'yan," he said.

[Translation: The circumstances say that it's hard to detect (the shabu) because it does not appear it in the X-ray when it's inside.]

Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte wants to get to the bottom of the drug shipments.

"He's raring to apply the full force of the law against those behind these importations. But it clearly shows the problem has an international aspect," he said.

The Palace spokesperson also said the system in the BOC must be fixed.

This shipment was larger than the ₱6.4-billion drug haul from China, where 604 kilograms of shabu slipped through BOC express lane. Then Customs Commissioner, Nicanor Faeldon, stepped down from his post August last year amid accusations of accepting bribes in the haul.

President Rodrigo Duterte also backed Faeldon, saying it is the BOC which is "corrupt to the core." He has since appointed Faeldon to the Office of Civil Defense.