Robredo needs officials linked to drugs probed
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo has called for an investigation of all officials linked to the alleged
entry of P11bn worth of drugs (shabu) hidden inside magnetic lifters in August.
Robredo made the call just days after President Rodrigo Duterte sacked Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena,
who had initially denied that the contraband slipped under his nose.
Lapena was forced to admit that shabu might have indeed slipped into the country after public works officials told
a House inquiry that the alleged containers were not really designed to work as lifters.
In August, agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) found four magnetic lifters in General Mariano Alvarez,
Cavite which were believed to have contained shabu initially estimated to be worth
“After several months of repeated denial, the leadership of the Bureau of Customs has acknowledged that the magnetic lifters which it let into the country in August contained shabu.
Finally, BoC Bureau of Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena agrees with the PDEA’s statement that the lifters were used to ship shabu worth an estimated P11bn into the Philippines,” Robredo said.
In-depth and serious investigation
“Now that it clear that such a huge shipment slipped past the BoC, this needs to follow by an in-depth and serious
investigation of officials who may involve. It is not enough that those who remiss in their duties are transferred to
another office, they should hold liable after an investigation,” she added.
The president, however, virtually absolved Lapena of any wrongdoing, saying in a speech at the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City
yesterday that the sacked Customs chief, as well as his predecessor Nicanor Faeldon, not corrupt and merely left
in the dark on the entry of shabu through the ports.
“Nalusutan lang (They clueless),” the president said.
Lapena earlier said that the four magnetic lifters swabbed and examined for the possible presence of illegal drugs and the resulting negative.
But on October 24, he said he was “more inclined to believe” that the magnetic lifters found in Cavite contained shabu.
Bureau of Equipment told lawmakers
Hence, this was after Director Toribio Noel Ilao of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ Bureau of Equipment told lawmakers at
the House of Representatives that “with…hollow area, our conclusion is the magnetic lifter…is
not fit for purpose in terms of lifting any scrap materials.”
Lapena told reporters in the interview on October 24 that this was new information.
President Duterte announced the next day (October 25) that he would be moving Lapena to
the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Robredo said the country’s illegal drug problem would not solve if shabu continued to enter the country.
“The policy that we need to follow is simple: If there no drug supply, there is no drug addict. We hope that the
government will take immediate action on this issue,” she said.
For Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon, President Duterte might regret ever trusting Lapena
if it later proved that he had a hand in the alleged shabu shipment.
Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Tuesday
Gordon said that if it were up to him, he would not allow the promotion or even transfer of an official embroiled in controversies.
The senator said that while the significant increase in collections under Lapena’s watch was laudable, it
was also incompetence that let drug shipments slip past the agency.
Gordon said he still expected Lapena to appear before the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Tuesday, adding he was not yet off the hook.
Prior to Duterte’s declaration of Lapena’s exchange, Lourdes Mangaoang, a previous head of the X-beam Inspection Project
of the BoC and now Customs appointee gatherer blamed Lapena for being an individual from a medication syndicate that
billions of pesos worth of shabu covered up in four attractive lifters.
The National Bureau of Investigation, the Senate and the House of Representatives independently
examining Lapena’s alleged job in the pirating of the P11bn shabu in August.
Meanwhile, Lapena a previous cop, supplanted by Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) overseer Leonardo
Guerrero, a resigned Armed Forces boss, as Customs boss.