PDEA Chief on leave — not sacked — amid P6.8-B shabu controversy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 17) — The government presented its latest drug war numbers on Friday, but noticeably missing in the panel is Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Chief Aaron Aquino.

Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Maria Banaag said he was not sacked by President Rodrigo Duterte in the wake of the new multibillion-peso shabu controversy.

"He filed a leave prior to this week for a vacation leave. It was way before (Duterte's statement on shabu shipment). Two weeks ago, he already filed the leave," she said.

When asked if Aquino has resigned, Banaag said no.

PDEA on August 10 said P6.8 billion worth of illegal drugs entered the country, but authorities failed to seize it. Aquino said four magnetic scrap lifters believed to have contained approximately one ton of shabu slipped through the country.

But Duterte dismissed it as "pure speculation."

"They opened it, there was none. It was pure speculation... They also presumed that is was full of shabu. And they just made an assumption of the price. But there was really none and I am not convinced [that there was]," he said on August 15.

Related: Duterte: Entry of ₱6.8 billion worth of shabu is 'pure speculation'  

The Bureau of Customs also said PDEA's claim the illegal drugs are already circulating in the streets. Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña also told a House hearing that laboratory tests done on four empty magnetic scrap lifters "yielded negative results" for the presence of dangerous drugs.

The government presented its latest drug war numbers on Friday, but noticeably missing in the panel is Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Chief Aaron Aquino.