Customs chief to critics: Why not focus on drug syndicates instead?

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 23 2018 03:07 PM | Updated as of Oct 23 2018 05:44 PM

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena displays the drug matrix, that was presented by President Duterte last week, during a press conference at the BOC headquarters in Manila on Tuesday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The government should focus on taking down drug syndicates instead of criticizing the Bureau of Customs (BOC), its chief, Isidro Lapeña, said Tuesday.

Lapeña made the remark amid criticism hounding the BOC after P6.8-billion worth of "shabu" reportedly slipped past the bureau under his watch.

"It is a fact that the drug syndicates have penetrated the government. They exist in BOC, PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), and they exist in other branches of the government," he said in a press briefing.

"Isn't it that we should be focused on pinning them (drug syndicates) down? Bakit tuloy ang BOC ang nailalagay sa spot? Why not the drug syndicates?" he added.

(Why is the BOC being singled out?)

In August this year, joint forces of the BOC and the PDEA intercepted 500 kilos of shabu concealed in two magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Port (MICP).

Three days later, PDEA discovered similar-looking magnetic lifters in GMA, Cavite following a lead from a tipster. These containers, however, were found empty.

The anti-drug agency said the empty containers may have contained P6.8-billion worth of illicit drugs but the BOC denied this.

Last week, PDEA chief Aaron Aquino claimed that the drugs that slipped past the Manila port are now being sold in the streets.

Aquino earlier reported that following the magnetic lifters incident, shabu sold in the streets are now priced at P1,400 to P1,800 per gram, far from the P6,800 to P8,000 per gram in July.

Amid conflicting statements, Lapeña said his office is open to discuss the matter with Aquino as he alleged that drug syndicates are out to ruin the BOC's reputation.

"We should not let our offices be manipulated by them (drug syndicates)," Lapeña said, noting that their agencies may have been "misled."

"Mukhang scripted ang buong pangyayari. We should not fall for this hook-and-dagger style of disinformation," he added.