A Bureau of Customs (BOC) official has claimed that their x-ray machines did detect illegal drugs inside magnetic lifters recovered in Cavite in August.
Former Customs X-ray Inspection Project (XIP) chief Lourdes Mangaoang showed Thursday images of the magnetic lifters the BOC examined last July 14.
Mangaoang, who is now assigned as Customs collector for passengers services at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, explained that a difference in color would mean something else is inside the magnetic lifters.
"Dogs don't lie, x-ray machines do not lie, only people can lie. I am very sure it was deliberate, dahil iyan ang modus operandi, para hindi makita ng examiner na may laman yung container na hindi naka-deklara, pinapadilim nila, sinasadya nila idilim yung image," Mangaoang told ABS-CBN News.
The former XIP chief also dismissed claims that the current x-ray machines weren’t functioning well, and therefore cannot penetrate such magnetic lifters.
"The x-ray can penetrate 11 inches of steel, therefore kaya niyang i-penetrate ito. What the Bureau of Customs officials is doing, they are covering up for the crime," Mangaoang said.
The PDEA found P2.4 billion worth of shabu inside magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) on August 7.
A day later, four more magnetic lifters were found in General Mariano Alvarez town in Cavite that were allegedly empty. The PDEA said agents were on the hunt for at least 5 more containers with a ton of shabu worth at least P6.8 billion.
The BOC still stands by its claim that all the magnetic lifters found in in Cavite were empty.
"That person who examined it stands by that statement na wala siyang laman. May credibility ba yung tao to say that? Yes, dahil nagtraining naman yun," BOC spokesperson Atty. Dino Austria said.
"Wala naman nagpabaya dito sa particular na transaction na to. For drugs? Absolutely not. To be fair with the BOC personnel, maraming problema, inaayos namin ito. Pero yung sasabihin natin na nagbubulagbulagan at kasabwat ang international drug syndicates, ibang usapan na yun."
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), however, slammed Austria’s claim and said that there can’t be an intelligence gap between agencies, pointing at former Customs Intelligence Officer Jimmy Guban, who should have alerted BOC officials on the shabu shipment.
"Kung di sila nakaka-receive ng intelligence report it's the problem of the Bureau of Customs, bakit hindi sinabi ni Guban sa kanila? Papaano magkaka-intelligence gap from the beginning, andyan si Guban?" PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said.
Mangaoang blamed Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña for inaction even after she showed Lapeña the images. She added that Lapeña can be held liable for command responsibility.
"I believe so, because I gave him a copy sir may laman yan, i-relieve mo yung mga involved, pero wala siyang aksyon. Pinagtatakahan ko wala siyang aksyon. Shabu ito," she said.
In a statement Thursday, Lapeña said the bureau has never kept any x-ray images from all the oversight committees.
He added that internal cleansing efforts and lifestyle checks have been relentless in the bureau.
"For the record, I ordered an investigation early on, from the time that two magnetic lifters containing 355 kilos of shabu were intercepted at MICP," he said.
"We still maintain that the 4 magnetic lifters consigned to SMYD Trading went through proper customs clearance. All X-ray images were submitted to the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs and the Senate Committee on Blue Ribbon."
'Alam ni Presidente na may laman ito'
Malacañang, however, maintained that the President is still keeping his full trust and confidence in Lapeña’s leadership.
Even amid numerous death threats, Mangaoang said she will continue to push for the evidence and stand for the truth adding that the BOC’s x-ray personnel at the time, either lack training or corruption again was in play.
"I am for the truth, hindi ko matanggap na ang mga taga-Bureau of Customs ay magpapalusot ng droga. No less than the President came out with a matrix. Alam ni Presidente na may laman ito," she said.
Following the incident on the magnetic lifters, ABS-CBN News also found a memorandum released by the Customs XIP, dated September 13, that now requires metal cargo, lifters, and cylinders to undergo verification and physical examination.