PDEA chief thankful for ally in Customs amid conflicting drug claims

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 22 2018 12:27 PM | Updated as of Sep 16 2019 03:55 PM

MANILA -- The chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Monday regarded as an "ally" a Customs official who claimed that agency Commissioner Isidro Lapeña may have ignored intelligence reports on the smuggling of illegal drugs using magnetic lifters.

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino earlier claimed that magnetic lifters found empty in Cavite in August may have contained P6.8 billion worth of shabu. Customs chief Isidro Lapeña, whose agency processed and cleared the entry of the lifters into the country, said otherwise.

However, former Customs X-ray Inspection Project (XIP) chief Lourdes Mangaoang contradicted Lapeña's statement last week, saying machines did detect illegal drugs inside magnetic lifters.

Lapeña, she said, may have ignored early intelligence reports on the alleged drug smuggling.

"Talagang naninindigan si Atty. Mangaoang na talagang may laman iyan[g magnetic lifters]. It's nice na mayroon kaming kakampi sa Bureau of Customs na talagang nagpapaliwanag pagdating sa result ng mga x-ray machine," Aquino told DZMM.

(Atty. Mangaoang has maintained that the magnetic lifters had contained something. It's nice that we have an ally at the Bureau of Customs, who explains x-ray machine findings.)

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The magnetic lifters in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite were discovered just days after around 500 kilos of shabu were found in similar containers at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), which were imported from Taiwan.

Drugs seized from recent raids of Metro Manila streets matched the narcotics confiscated at MICT, Aquino said, citing laboratory tests.

The MICT drugs have the same production and source as the drugs that supposedly slipped past authorities in Cavite, he said.


The Department of Public Works and Highways, in an independent study, also found that the magnetic lifters were modified to hold drugs, said Aquino.
"Lumalabas na talagang those magnetic lifters are used to smuggle drugs. Hindi siya itong standard na magnetic lifters, parang kinonvert in such a way na mas malaki iyung hollow space niya para mapaglagyan sa loob," he said.

(It appears that the magnetic lifters are used to smuggle drugs. Those were not standard, but converted in such a way that t he hollow space is bigger.)

Aquino said he is still summarizing the DPWH's 27-page report and will bare it soon.

Lapeña, however, said that the match between drugs in the street and at MICT does not prove that the empty magnetic lifters in Cavite really did contain narcotics.

The Customs chief also said there is a failure of intelligence or lack of coordination among member agencies under Aquino’s leadership -- which the latter rejected.