MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday doubted the claim of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that the magnetic lifters found in Cavite in August may have contained P11 billion worth of shabu.
The magnetic lifters were discovered at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez town 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 on Oct. 25 that 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. This led the agency to conclude that the shabu allegedly concealed in the lifters may have been worth P11 billion.
But Duterte said PDEA’s assertion would not stand in court.
“They are assuming na puno iyon. They pegged it there, nakita nila traces, but they wrongly assumed na puno iyon kaya from P6 million, they increased the [value]… that can’t stand in court,” Duterte, a former prosecutor, said in a lecture on illegal drugs in Malacañang.
(They are assuming that [the magnetic lifters] were full. They pegged it there, they saw traces, but they wrongly assumed that they were full that's why from P6 million, they increased the [value]... that can't stand in court.)
Duterte said this in front of former Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña, who drew flak after the alleged large haul of shabu slipped past the bureau under his leadership.
The President said it was wrong to just assume that the value of shabu allegedly concealed in the lifters could be as high as P11 billion, even as tests concluded that there were traces of shabu in it. He said conclusions based on assumptions would only fuel speculation among the public.
“What was found are traces. Bakit (Why did) you revise it from six to what, 121, 112? Assuming na may na-swab ka (that you took a swab) but you are assuming, you increase the price, announce it to the public assuming that it was filled to the brim that is why the price is increased,” Duterte said.
“You assume it to be positive but why say it now that you increase it from 6 [billion pesos] to… because inassume agad ng mga buwang na puno ito (because these crazy people assumed that they were full), then you fuel the suspicion of the public.”
The Bureau Customs, which processed and approved the shipment, initially denied that the magnetic lifters were used to smuggle drugs.
Lapeña, during a House inquiry on Oct. 24, backpedaled on this statement, saying the magnetic lifters could have indeed contained drugs.
Lapeña has since been transferred to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and was replaced by Rey Guerrero, a former military chief and erstwhile administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority.