Shabu cargo may be missing – Gatchalian

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Valenzuela City First District Rep. Wesley Gatchalian on Tuesday expressed fears that a cargo of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) may be missing in Valenzuela City.

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As the House opened its investigation of the entry of illegal drugs from China on Tuesday, Gatchalian said four days after agents of the Bureau of Customs seized P6.4 billion worth of shabu in two warehouses in Valenzuela City on May 26, 2017, another raid was conducted in the city.

“Residents of Valenzuela City are worried that the missing shabu shipment would end up in their neighborhood,” Gatchalian said, referring to the alleged second shipment that was searched by Customs operatives allegedly without the knowledge of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Gatchalian said four days after the discovery of the first shipment, BOC operatives returned to F. Bautista Street in Barangay Ugong to look for additional contraband.

“On May 30, the BOC operatives were looking for additional shabu shipment based on the letter of authority issued by BOC chief to do the second raid. Unfortunately, they were not able to produce the said contraband,” the solon said.

Gatchalian said the Barangays of Paso de Blas and Ugong are industrial areas near North Luzon Expressway that could have been used by illegal drug smugglers to transport the contraband to other parts of Luzon.

It was Gatchalian who filed House Resolution 1057 calling for a congressional inquiry into the BOC’s express lane system that allowed the entry of the illegal drugs.

The lawmaker slammed the BOC for allowing the drug shipments to breeze through the green lane.

“People should be held accountable for this illegal drug smuggling, which is now using the Bureau of Customs express lane system to victimize the people of Valenzuela City and other parts of the country,” he said. “We also call on the authorities not to rest until they find the second contraband which could end up in the street and exacerbate the illegal drug problem in the country.”

Squabbles

At the hearing yesterday, the squabble between the PDEA and the BOC on how to deal with the drug seizure came to light.

It was learned that of the huge haul in Valenzuela City, only 100 grams are in the custody of the PDEA. The BOC turned over the shabu to the National Bureau of Investigation which BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon said had a better storage facility.

Wilkins Villanueva, Director of the PDEA National Capital Region (NCR), said the BOC violated the Dangerous Drugs Act when Customs officials led by Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Neil Estrella transported just one of the five crates, leaving four other crates containing around 500 kilograms of shabu in the Valenzuela warehouse.

The Dangerous Drugs Act states that the PDEA is mandated to “take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals seized, confiscated or surrendered to any national, provincial or local law enforcement agency, if no longer needed for purposes of evidence in court.”

“How can we conduct an anti-illegal drug operation now that the drugs are already out of the cylinders? Everybody was touching the drugs. They (Customs) contaminated everything,” Villanueva said.

“They (Customs side) won’t listen to PDEA. They don’t listen to us experts. They insisted that only one crate would suffice for controlled delivery operation. I am a Director. I am not a Mr. Nagmamagaling kasi kayo, wala naman kayong alam! (You act like you know the job well, but you know nothing!),” he added.

Faeldon insisted that he did the right thing.

“There is a call for the truth to come out, and we appreciate this investigation. I would like to make this clear: Faced with the same situation, I would still make the same decision. I was the only one who insisted that the owner of the warehouse should be charged, that’s why I want part of the [illegal]drugs] to be left in the warehouse [and out of controlled delivery operation],” Faeldon, a former Marine captain, argued.

“I just want to have an evidence against the owner of the warehouse. If all of the drugs will be subjected to controlled delivery operation under PDEA, we won’t have evidence on the owner of the warehouse,” he added.

Blame BOC

BUHAY Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza said the BOC should get the blame for the entry of the illegal drugs.

“We blame the Bureau of Customs for the entry of the P6.25 billion worth of shabu into our country, legally at that.
Thousands have been killed in the government’s ongoing war on drugs. But it is ironic that the entry of shabu continues unabated. They failed to implement the pre-inspection provision in the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). Section 440 of the CMTA is very specific, container vans should be inspected at their ports of origin. They should be cleared at the port of origin before shipment,” Atienza said.

“This provision would ensure that all containerized cargos bound for the Philippines would undergo inspection at the country of supply or export by an accredited third-party cargo surveying company. This would be of no cost to the government as it is the shipper that would shoulder the expense. If properly implemented, this would prevent illegal goods from even reaching our ports. During our meetings with private importers, they were all in favor of having their cargo cleared before shipment. Why then is the BOC foot-dragging and dilly-dallying on its implementation?” he added.

Atienza pointed out that the BOC processes around 3,300 container vans per day but only 8 percent or 240 of these containers are being inspected.

“With such a miniscule percentage of containers undergoing inspection, what happens to the other 92 percent? Who knows how many more shipments may have escaped discovery this past year alone? We urge the BOC to immediately implement the pre-screening at the port of origin to avoid incidents of smuggling and entry of illegal drugs to our country,” Atienza stressed.

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