Lapeña backpedals, says magnetic lifters in Cavite may have contained illegal drugs

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 24 2018 05:15 PM | Updated as of Oct 24 2018 06:13 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, Oct. 24, 2018. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- (UPDATE) Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña backpedaled on his earlier statement Wednesday, saying magnetic lifters found in Cavite may have contained illegal drugs.

Lapeña made the remark during a legislative inquiry into the P6.8-billion "shabu" haul that allegedly slipped past port inspections.

"With the circumstantial evidence and testimonies, as an investigator, I will tend to believe na indeed may laman yan sir," he said.

Lapeña was referring to magnetic lifters found by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in GMA, Cavite in August this year.

The magnetic lifters, which were suspected to have contained illegal drugs, however, were found empty.

The anti-drug agency checked out the said magnetic lifters following a lead from a tipster. 

The PDEA said the empty containers may have contained P6.8-billion worth of illicit drugs but the Bureau of Customs (BOC) denied this.

Former Customs X-ray Inspection Project (XIP) chief Lourdes Mangaoang earlier claimed that illegal drugs were detected in the magnetic lifters discovered in Cavite.

At the time the empty magnetic lifters in Cavite were discovered, the PDEA and the BOC have just intercepted 500 kilos of shabu concealed in two other magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Port (MICP).

Lapeña admitted on Wednesday 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, PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said he is "happy" that Lapeña now believes that the magnetic lifters in Cavite did contain illegal drugs.

"At least now, he admitted that he believes there is drugs inside so we'll continue now jointly to conduct investigation and wage war with regards to this syndicate," Aquino told ANC.

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

The PDEA also said tests it conducted revealed that drugs seized from the Manila port matched samples from its recent busts and 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.

Lapeña, however, said the analysis "did not categorically answer" the question on whether or not the four magnetic lifters found in Cavite indeed contain illegal drugs.

“The test conducted by PDEA then does not substantiate the PDEA’s claim that their recent shabu seizures are from those empty lifters found in Cavite since their basis is the MICP shabu substance which came from a different source," he said.