MANILA (UPDATE) - Four magnetic lifters that were found empty in Cavite province could have concealed an estimated P11 billion worth of shabu, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said Thursday.
The magnetic lifters were discovered at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez town in August, just days after authorities found P4.3 billion worth of shabu inside similar containers at the Manila port.
The PDEA initially estimated that the Cavite magnetic lifters could have contained P6.8 billion worth of shabu.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino, however, said the agency decided to re-weigh the lifters including a van of similar weight that contained the lifters and the original truck where it was mounted.
"Ikinumpara namin doon sa timbang na originally nakalagay sa bill of lading, iyung gross at net weight n'ya."
(We compared that with the weight that was originally in the bill of lading, its gross and net weight.)
He said the discrepancy in the reading and the weight stated in the shipment's bill is 1.6 tons. This is equal to the amount of drugs that could have been concealed by the lifters, estimated to be worth P11 billion, he said.
Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, however, said he is not convinced that the alleged missing shabu cost P11 billion.
“I don’t know [where] the P11 billion was taken, but of course it’s coming from PDEA. If we will just took, look at the four empty containers, that will not, hindi iyong magreresulta ng P11 billion (that will not result in P11 billion),” Lapeña said in a Palace press briefing.
“Kasi iyong arithmetic eh, we have to do some computation dito. Iyong sasabihin mo na more than 1,000 ang laman noon. Do the arithmetic and you will not arrive at more than 1,000.”
(Because the arithmetic there is, we have to do some computation here. You say it contained more than 1,000 [kilos]. Do the arithmetic and you will not arrive at more than 1,000 [kilos].)
The Bureau of Customs, which processed and approved the shipment, initially denied that the magnetic lifters were used to smuggle drugs.
Lapeña, during a House inquiry on Wednesday, backpedaled on this statement, saying the magnetic lifters could have indeed contained drugs.
Aquino said he feels "vindicated" over Lapeña's change in tune. He said he shook the Customs chief's hand during the House hearing and told him that their agencies could now mount joint operations again.
"I feel vindicated, Kabayan, kasi unang-una, finally ay nakinig ang Bureau of Customs sa PDEA na matagal na naming iginigiit na talagang may laman iyan," he told DZMM's Noli De Castro.
(I feel vindicated because the Bureau of Customs finally listened to what the PDEA has been saying all along that these contained something.)
Authorities earlier arrested one Chinese national who was among 7 people caught on surveillance footage as they transported the magnetic lifters to the Cavite warehouse.
PDEA is awaiting findings of a parallel probe by the National Bureau of Investigation into the alleged role of some government personnel in the botched Customs inspection of the shabu shipment, said Aquino. - with Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News