MANILA - The former Customs intelligence officer allegedly involved in the drug trade will be considered for witness protection, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Thursday.
Guevarra said he and Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, have agreed to transfer the custody of Jimmy Guban to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) upon the termination of the Senate inquiry on the release of contraband through the port of Manila.
Guban is considered "a vital witness" in the ongoing Senate probe on the release of a P6.8-billion drug shipment through the Manila port in August.
"Mr Guban shall also be considered for coverage under the witness protection program (WPP), upon full compliance with all the requirements under the WPP law," Guevarra said in a statement.
Under the law, an individual may be admitted into the WPP if the case he or she is testifying on involves a grave offense and if he or she or any relative is under threat, among others.
Guevarra said the NBI would further investigate the case "on the basis of the Senate committee report and file the appropriate complaints as the evidence will warrant," he added.
Gordon said Guban gave crucial information to pin people behind the multibillion-peso drug slip at the BOC.
"May testimony si Mr. Guban na lahat sila binibigyan niya ng tara... Sinabi niya 'yung mga pangalan. Lahat mayroon kaming mga pangalan diyan," he said in a press briefing.
(He gave testimony that all of them (Customs officials) were given bribes... He gave names. We have the names.)
Gordon recommended placing Guban under the government's witness protection program after his panel ruled that the former Customs officer was no longer held in contempt and is now under the Senate's protective custody "for his safety."
"The threats are there because hangga't hindi pa dumarating sa husgado 'yan, 'pag wala si Guban, walang kaso. You only have circumstantial evidence," he said in a press briefing.
(The threats are there because until the case has not reached the courts, if Guban is not there, there is no case. You only have circumstantial evidence.)
The Senate had in September cited Guban in contempt and detained him for giving conflicting statements during its investigation on the billions worth of shabu that allegedly slipped past the Bureau of Customs.
Guban later admitted to receiving at least P10,000 in exchange for looking for the consignee-for-hire that received the magnetic lifters through which illegal drugs were smuggled.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech on Wednesday evening, ordered Guban's arrest over his alleged unscrupulous acts.
He earlier released a “secret special report” tagging Guban and other high-ranking police officials to the illegal drug trade.
The report said Guban developed a network and that individuals would turn to him whenever they wanted illegal drugs and other goods such as fireworks, rice, sugar, onions and garlic shipped to the country.
It said Guban was familiar with all the owners of warehouses he was raiding as well as their managers, mostly Chinese individuals from whom he collected "grease money."
The report also linked Guban to a certain Chen Yu, reportedly a member of the Bamboo Alliance Syndicate that “offers all sorts of transactions.”
“Guban’s source of wealth is dubious. In the past, he only used to ride a motorcycle, but after several operations and 'accomplishments’, his new ride became a Land Cruiser and he eventually possessed a number of homes,” the report said. - with reports from Mike Navallo and Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News