A huge shipment of illegal drugs could not have passed through the “green lane” of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) without the involvement of corrupt personnel, Rep. Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte said on Saturday.
Barbers warned that heads will roll over the smuggling of illegal drugs.
“We have to find out who among the Customs employees processed the papers of this shipment that paved the way for its clearance. I don’t believe that Customs employees are not involved in this,” Barbers said in a radio interview.
Barbers, head of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, was referring to the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs, mostly shabu, from China.
He said Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon could also be liable under the doctrine of command responsibility.
“Smuggling is no joke, especially if it involves drugs. Heads will roll,” the lawmaker warned.
Barbers’ panel will start its investigation into the smuggling of illegal drugs on August 1.
Shipments that pass through the Customs’ “green lane” are no longer scrutinized by Customs officials because only favored importers or those with unblemished transactions are allowed this privilege.
Barbers’ panel is investigating the entry of the illegal drugs shipped by Hongfei Philippines from Guangdong, China to EMT Trading.
Tipped by their Chinese counterpart, Customs agents seized 604 kilos of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) in two warehouses in Valenzuela City in May. The drugs were hidden inside five metal cylinders.
Barbers claimed that Hongfei Philippines was able to ship 600 containers to the country labeled general merchandise or kitchen utensils. He said 90 percent of EMT’s shipments passed through the green lane.
“Who are the officials from Customs who have the authority to decide which shipment goes to the green lane and clear the shipment? We’ll find it out so that we can recommend their prosecution,” Barbers said.
“And why is their shipment always going through the green lane?” he added.
The House Committee on Ways and Means held an inquiry into the incident last week but the probe focused on Faeldon’s chief of staff, Mandy Anderson, who was scolded by lawmakers for calling Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez an imbecile for proposing the abolition of the Court of Appeals.
Anderson apologized to lawmakers, but she did not address her apology to Alvarez.
A day after her House appearance, Anderson said in a radio interview that Alvarez was out for revenge because she turned down the Speaker’s recommendation to promote an employee.
Alvarez admitted making the recommendation but denied Anderson’s claims that he vowed to raise hell because of the rejection.
Anderson, who ranked fifth in the 2015 Bar examinations, worked for the Villaraza and Angangco Law firm before joining the government.
The Villaraza and Angangco Law firm was founded by Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Arthur Villaraza in 1980.
“Ms. Anderson should apologize. During the hearing, she apologized to lawmakers, including those who are not there. What is going to stop her from apologizing to the Speaker? The behavior is uncalled for. She should think about that. She should know the boundaries of her position in Bureau of Customs,” Barbers said.
Valenzuela City first district representative Wes Gatchalian had called on the House of Representatives to investigate the Customs bureau for the smuggling of the illegal drugs.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to warn those who would attempt to make our city a haven for their nefarious activities, that we will not tolerate any of these and that our local police force will work 24/7 until every single laboratory or warehouse sheltering these illegal drugs are found out,” he added.
In his House Resolution 1057, Gatchalian said it was alarming that the BOC allowed the drug shipment to pass through the “green lane,” notwithstanding the fact that compared to other cargoes carrying the same declared contents, the shipment weighed nearly twice the normal weight.
The drugs, which had been divided into smaller amounts and packed into plastic bags, were found inside five metal insulators used for printing presses.
“I am calling for this investigation because people have to be accountable in this government. With the marching orders of the president from the first day he stepped in office in cracking down on illegal drugs, all of us here should be in the same page as a team,” Gatchalian said.
“This is also an opportunity for the lawmakers to review our laws to fill in gaps so that once and for all we are able to have a truly comprehensive answer to the drug problem in the country.” he added.