Customs chief disputes entry of ₱6.8-billion shabu shipment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 14) — Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña on Tuesday dismissed an earlier report that ₱6.8 billion worth of shabu slipped into the country, but the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) stood by its claim.

Officials from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and PDEA issued opposing claims during a House hearing on the alleged drug shipment from Taiwan that entered the country in June.

"The allegation that one ton of shabu is circulating in the market has no basis," Lapeña said, disputing the claim made by PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino.

Authorities found four magnetic scrap lifters in a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez in Cavite on August 8. PDEA said traces of illegal drugs were detected in the containers with the help of its sniffer dogs, adding that one ton of shabu is possibly being sold in the streets now.

But Lapeña told a House hearing that laboratory tests done on four empty magnetic scrap lifters "yielded negative results" for the presence of dangerous drugs.

Aquino did not attend the hearing but PDEA officials present said the claim of illegal drugs slipping past authorities was based on the sniffer dogs' behavior and the fact that two similar containers earlier found in the Manila International Container Port contained around 500 kilograms of shabu worth an estimated ₱4.3 billion.

"Yung apat na cylindrical metallic lifters, parehas na prehas sa nasa MICP... Meron ding asbestos filling at saka meorn ding aluminum foil," PDEA Deputy Director General for Operation Ruel Lasala said. "We join our Director General in his stance na drugs ang laman nun taking into consideration all the circumstantial evidence gathered."

Rep. Miro Quimbo backed PDEA.

"To me as a lawyer, if it talks like a duck, it walks like a duck, then it must be a duck. Parehong pareho e," Quimbo told Lapeña.

"You cannot tell us that there are no drugs simply without any basis…. We can see that there is a pattern. You are clearly disputing the express statement of another government agency," Quimbo added.

Lapeña, however, insisted the magnetic lifters could not have contained a ton of shabu, saying "it did not contain anything."

Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte still trusts Lapeña – a retired police general and former PDEA chief – despite authorities' alleged failure to seize the massive shabu shipment. But Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque assured the President wants to get to the bottom of the issue.

The alleged drug shipment is more massive than the controversial ₱6.4 billion drug haul from China, where 604-kg of shabu was brought inside the country via an express lane in the Customs Bureau last May 2017.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.