MANILA - The National Bureau of Investigation on Thursday filed criminal and administrative complaints with the Department of Justice against former Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña and about 50 others over two incidents of drug shipments concealed inside magnetic lifters.
The NBI charged Lapeña with 2 counts each of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and administrative complaints of dereliction of duty and grave misconduct over his failure to file complaints against the consignees, importers and brokers of the 2 magnetic lifters discovered with shabu at the Port of Manila and the 4 magnetic lifters that slipped past BOC and were found empty in Cavite.
Lapeña is currently director general of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.The same complaints were lodged against sacked Port of Manila District Collector Vener Baquiran because he failed to declare the 2 magnetic lifters at the Port of Manila abandoned, and X-ray Inspection Project head Zsae Carrie De Guzman and 2 others for allowing the 4 magnetic lifters to pass through Customs.
Meanwhile, around 50 others were named as respondents in the complaints for importation of illegal drugs, graft and grave misconduct, including former PDEA Deputy Director General for Administration Ismael Fajardo, Jr. former PNP AIDG OIC Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto, former Customs intelligence agent Jimmy Guban, police inspector Lito Pirote and Joseph Dimayuga.
Three others face complaints for false testimony and Pirote for subornation of perjury when he allegedly paid 2 witnesses to testify falsely.
The case stemmed from the discovery of two abandoned magnetic lifters at the Port of Manila in August which contained 355 kilos of shabu worth P2.4 billion.
A day after, similar lifters were discovered abandoned at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite which PDEA believes to have contained 1.6 tons of shabu worth an estimated 11 billion pesos.
The two incidents became the subject of several Senate and House hearings, with former Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña initially denying that the magnetic lifters found in Cavite contained shabu, only to concede later on.
In August 2018, PDEA filed a drug importation complaint against 4 respondents involved in the 2.4-billion shabu shipment at the MICP.
In December 2018, PDEA filed criminal complaints against more than 40 respondents over the alleged 11-billion shabu shipment in Cavite.
Lapeña was not included in both cases filed, with Director General Aaron Aquino saying his team found no “direct link” between Lapeña and the two cases.
Aside from Lapeña, Fajardo is the highest-ranking government official tagged in the shabu shipment case. He was sacked in September.
SHABU IN 4 EMPTY MAGNETIC LIFTERS?
In the letter-complaint signed by Director Dante Gierran, the NBI explained why they believed that the 4 magnetic lifters found in Cavite also contained illegal drugs just like the 2 earlier found in the Port of Manila.
The agency cited similarities in the physical appearance and modifications made to the two sets of magnetic lifters.
It gave weight to the drug sniffing dogs’ act of sitting beside the lifters in both cases as a sign of the presence of shabu despite negative results in the swabbing laboratory tests.
The NBI also noted attempts to change the declarations of items. There was also an attempt to change the address of the consignee in the 2 magnetic lifters to “CRS Subdivision, GMA, Cavite,” the address of the consignee in the 4 magnetic lifters case.
“[W]hile the shippers, consignees, brokers are not similar, the modus were connected by set of individuals, through a chain conspiracy,” the letter-complaint said, explaining that in a chain conspiracy, conspirators may act separately and successively without knowing everyone who are part of the conspiracy.
“Evidently, the actions of the individuals in the 2 magnetic lifters and the 4 magnetic lifters were in relation to the attainment of one common objective. They had vital roles in the nefarious scheme to import drugs, where they knew that they would obtain substantial amount of money,” it added.
The NBI named Fajardo, Acierto, and Guban as core conspirators.
At the time the magnetic lifters shipments were made, Fajardo was PDEA OIC-Deputy Director for Administration and the regional director for NCR. Acierto was a dismissed police officer who was formerly deputy for operations of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drug Special Task Force while Guban was a career intelligence officer of the BOC.
The NBI said the 3 knew about the shabu shipments from Malaysia.
“Instead of alerting all ports, DDGA Fajardo and Guban did not make a necessary coordination to intercept the shipment, as they knew, that the shipment belongs to or connected with Col. Acierto,” the NBI alleged.
“What is worse is the fact that despite the joint operations of the PNP and PDEA, the four lifters were not intercepted in Region IV,” it added.
Aquino had said in December they could no longer locate Fajardo and Acierto.
Guban, meanwhile, had earlier been admitted by the DOJ into its witness protection program following the recommendation of Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Sen. Richard Gordon.
Like the NBI, the PDEA also considers Guban a principal respondent.
The DOJ has consolidated the 2 cases earlier filed by PDEA and has set the filing of counter-affidavits by respondents on January 30.