SOME members of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee suspect that there could have been other shipments of illegal drugs from China that breezed through the green lane of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) aside from the more than 600 kilos of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) seized by Customs agents in May.
At the hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee on the recent seizure of the P6.4 billion worth of shabu in Valenzuela City, Sen. Panfilo Lacson quizzed officials of the BOC why they did not pursue the other three shipments that arrived together with the merchandise that contained the illegal substance.
Lacson noted that the supplier, broker and trading company of the illegal drug shipment had three other entries.
“Why did you not follow the other shipments? Did it not raise red flags? I don’t think you need to be an intelligence expert or law enforcement expert to realize that,” Lacson said.
The senator said it is possible that the three other shipments may have also contained shabu.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the committee, shared Lacson’s concern, saying he received information that a bigger shipment of shabu was released from the BOC.
“I have heard that there is a much bigger shipment that came out,” Gordon said in an interview but he did not elaborate.
Customs officials led by Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon could not explain why EMT Trading, the consignee of the huge drug shipment, was able to have most of its shipments pass through the “green lane” despite its being a new importer.
The green lane is one of the four lanes of the BOC’s selectivity system where imported products pass through. The other three are blue or “super green lane,” yellow and red lanes.
The BOC introduced the green lane system in 2013 to expedite the shipping of products.
Shipments that pass the green lane no longer need to undergo inspection and document verification.
According to Lacson, of the 534 importations of EMT Trading from March 21 to May 29, 484 entries went through the green lane; 36 were yellow and only four passed through the red lane.
“How did EMT manage to access the green lane? This is for Customs to explain to us. It should have been a red flag if it came from China. That’s included in your criteria, selectivity system. ‘Pag China, (if it is from China) that’s automatic red,” Lacson said.
Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala said the head of their risk management office (RMO) failed to input the name of EMT Trading in the list of new importers, that is why it was able to access the green lane.
Gambala was referring to Larribert Hilario, who was suspended by Faeldon on May 30.
Hilario was not present in the Senate hearing because Faeldon claimed that they had lost contact with him.
Meanwhile, the blue ribbon committee granted Mark Ruben Taguba 2nd, who provided senators more information about the drug shipments, protective custody.
Taguba admitted that he facilitated the delivery of the 40-foot container van that contained five metal cylinders but he denied that the cylinders contained shabu.
A team led by the BOC raided two warehouses in Valenzuela City in May and seized 604 kilos of shabu hidden in five cylindrical roller printing machines from China.
Taguba requested for an executive session to disclose more information about the shipment and to discuss further the Customs officials’ alleged knowledge on the drug shipment. He also implicated some customs officials during the executive session.
The customs broker claimed that a Taiwanese, Richard Tan, ordered the shipping of 604 kilos of shabu from China to Manila.
According to him, Tan, who owns Hongfei Philippines, knew about the shipment of shabu even before authorities raided his warehouse.
A photo of Tan with Faeldon was shown during the hearing. The Customs chief said the photo was taken after the Valenzuela raid.
Gordon described Taguba a “willing witness” who listed the names of officials allegedly involved in the illegal shipment.
“I made him write it. I did not want him to just say it,” the senator said.
Gordon refused to discuss what transpired during the executive session, but hinted that liability in the BOC goes from “up and down.”