By Jeffrey Damicog
Former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner and current Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Isidro Lapena and his co-respondents have been directed to the respond to the criminal complaints they are facing before the Department of Justice (DOJ) concerning the billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs which were smuggled into the country using magnetic lifters in 2018.
During a hearing held at the DOJ Wednesday, Assistant State Prosecutor Mary Jane Sytat, who chairs the panel of prosecutors handling the case, directed all the respondents to file on February 11 their counter-affidavits over the complaints filed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Sytat said the panel has granted the motion of the NBI to consolidate its complaint filed just last January 24 with the complaints of the PDEA which were filed on August 29, 2018 and December 13, 2018.
Because of this, the panel deferred Wednesday’s scheduled filing of the counter-affidavits of those named as respondents in the PDEA complaints.
Though these complaints have been consolidated, Sytat said “these will be treated as separate cases.”
“It’s just consolidated so that the appreciation of the facts will be one and the same,” she explained.
“It is just for the appreciation of facts so as not to have differing or conflicting resolution
In the NBI complaint, Lapena, Vener Baquiran, Zsae Carrie de Guzman, John Mar Morales, and Benjamin Cajucom are accused of having committed dereliction of duty in violation of the Revised Penal Code; violation of Section 3(e) of the Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); and grave misconduct in violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees.
The NBI complaint also sought the prosecution of over 40 persons including the three “core conspirators”, namely, Guban, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Deputy Director for Administration Ismael Fajardo, dismissed Police Sr. Supt. Eduardo Acierto who was former deputy Anti-Illegal Drug Special Task Force of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for importation of illegal drugs in violation of Section 26 of RA 9165 (the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002); violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019; and for grave misconduct.
The PDEA’s December 13, 2018 complaint accused 44 respondents including Guban, Fajardo and Acierto also of importation of dangerous drugs, attempt of conspiracy, and liability of a person violating any regulation issued by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
They are also accused of violating Section 3(e) of RA 3019, and for obstruction of justice in violation of Presidential Decree No. 1829, Section 1(c) and the Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
While, the PDEA’s August 29, 2018 complaint accused Chan Yee Wah Albert, Zhang Quan, Vedasto Baraquel Jr., and Maria Lagrimas Catipan of possession of illegal drugs in violation of RA 9165.