MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday told Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino and Bureau of Customs chief Isidro Lapeña to "stop blaming each other" over the P6.8-billion "shabu" haul that allegedly slipped past port inspections.
Duterte said this as he vouched for the integrity of Lapeña, who has been criticized over the BoC's failure to detect the contraband.
The public bickering of the two officials, both of whom have crucial roles in the administration's war on drugs, might play into the hands of drug traders, the President said.
“Lapeña is good. He has been with me, he has served Davao city for more than 15 years,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang.
“Pati iyan si Aaron. Kaya nalulusutan sila, instead of killing the idiots, sila nagtuturuan (Even Aaron. That's why it slipped past them, instead of killing the idiots, they are pointing fingers at each other). Stop blaming each other.”
Lapeña and Aquino have been trading barbs over the alleged presence of shabu in magnetic lifters that passed customs inspection and were found empty in General Mariano Alvarez town, Cavite in August.
PDEA’s Aquino has been insisting that the magnetic lifters had contained shabu and then emptied out before authorities could reach them.
At the time the empty magnetic lifters in Cavite were discovered, the PDEA and the BoC had just intercepted 500 kilos of shabu concealed in two other magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Port (MICP).
Lapeña, however, had repeatedly belied Aquino’s assertions that the magnetic lifters found in Cavite had contained illegal drugs. In a recent development, Lapeña backpedaled, saying magnetic lifters found in Cavite may have contained illegal drugs.
Explaining the sudden change in his position, Lapeña explained that the magnetic lifters found in Cavite are "not designed for lifting."
"With this development, there is a content that has been peddled by this group," he said.
Speaking to ANC on Wednesday, Aquino said he was "happy" that Lapeña now believes that the magnetic lifters in Cavite did contain illegal drugs.
"At least now, he admitted that he believes there [are] drugs inside so we'll continue now jointly to conduct investigation and wage war with regards to this syndicate," Aquino told ANC. - with Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News