PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte still has trust and confidence in Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, because he has not said anything to the contrary, the Palace said yesterday.
“The President has not said that he is losing trust and confidence in him [Lapeña], so the assumption is, he has [Duterte’s trust and confidence],” said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
His statement came even after Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino said that Lapeña should be held liable for billions of pesos’ worth of shabu that entered the country, bypassing the Bureau of Customs.
Aquino was quoted as saying that “kahit saan namang ahensiya, kapag nagkaroon ka ng kakulangan, tatamaan at tatamaan ang lider ng ahensiya na iyan. In this case, most likely, kung ganoon ang mangyayari, dapat tamaan si Commissioner.”
On August 7, authorities intercepted P4.3 billion worth of shabu contained in two magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Terminal. The shipment arrived on June 28 in a container van from Malaysia.
On August 10, PDEA found four other magnetic lifters similar to those intercepted in MICP in a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite. The lifters had been emptied before authorities got hold of them, but the PDEA said that some P6.8 billion shabu may have been smuggled through them, because the magnetic cynlinders’ profile—including color, make-up, holes and documentation papers—were identical to the shipment intercepted at the MICT. Furthermore, the agency’s K-9 units had indicated that the drug had been in the containers.
Both Duterte and Lapeña would later contradict the PDEA, saying that there was no evidence that the empty lifters had contained shabu.
On Wednesday, BoC Deputy Collector Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang said that the lifters in Cavite had indeed contained the illegal drug, but that Lapeña did not act on it.
The bureau later denied Mangaoang’s assertion, saying that Lapeña has ordered a “thorough” investigation into the matter.
Panelo declared that any government officials proven to have facilitated the drugs’ entry will be held accountable.