Customs official admits error in responding to shabu shipment

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2017 07:11 PM

MANILA - The Customs' intelligence chief admitted breaking protocol when he did not immediately inform the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) about the P6.4 billion shabu shipment from China.

Neil Estrella, director of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), said he needed to validate first the notice he got about the shipment from China before coordinating with PDEA.

"I did not follow the procedure," he said Wednesday. "At that time that I received the intelligence information I was still validating the information." 

During the Senate probe, Senator Richard Gordon pointed out an agreement between the Customs and PDEA about prior coordination regarding cases involving drugs.

Gordon then asked Estrella if he was aware of a memorandum of agreement signed on September 9, 2010. 

The Customs intelligence chief said he was knew of the MOA but instead of calling PDEA, he sought advice from a friend, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Lito Magno, as he also felt the need to "compartmentalize."

"I have trust in him. I just told him, 'pare, meron tayong impormasyon. I'm not sure ano ba'ng procodure niyo sa ganito,'" said Estrella of his former classmate.

He stressed that what he did was just a consultation and not an official coordination. 

The Customs intelligence chief said he, along with a team of less than 10 persons, decided to go to the warehouse and validate the information themselves. He called PDEA the next morning.

PDEA Director Isidro Lapeña said because of what Estrella did, the intelligence information and the evidence gathered have become inadmissible.

"Evidence will no longer be able to support a case. It will be inadmissible," said the PDEA chief who also answered affirmative when asked if he thought Estrella was incompetent.