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 were given more time to submit their response to the criminal complaints concerning the billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs which were smuggled into the country using magnetic lifters in 2018.
During a hearing of the complaints held February 2 at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Assistant State Prosecutor Mary Jane Sytat, who chairs the panel handling the case, granted the appeal of Lapeña’s legal counsel John Telan, for more time to file his client’s counter-affidavit.
Telan explained Lapena could not come yesterday’s hearing due to official duties, and that the subpoena was only received just last Monday.
Sytat gave Lapena and other respondents who failed to file their counter-affiavits yesterday until February 21 to submit their respective pleadings.
“We will allow you until the (February) 21st ,” she told the lawyers.
“Non-extendible na yan (It’s non-extendible)” she stressed.
Among the respondents who were given more time to submit counter-affidavits include former BOC Deputy Commissioner Ricardo Quinto, formerPhilippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Deputy Director for Administration Ismael Fajardo, and dismissed Police Sr. Supt. Eduardo Acierto who was former deputy Anti-Illegal Drug Special Task Force of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
On the other hand, other respondents were able to submit their counter-affidavits yesterday including former BOC intelligence officer Jimmy Guban.
The panel is currently conducting the preliminary investigation of the consolidated complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the PDEA.
The case concerns the two magnetic lifters found with illegal drugs at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) as well as the four magnetic lifters at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez (GMA), Cavite which were believed to have also contained narcotics.
In its January 23 complaint, the NBI accused 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 included over 40 other persons including the three “core conspirators”, namely, Guban, Fajardo, and Acierto 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.
While, 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 Presidential Decree No. 1829, Section 1(c) and the Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
Another complaint filed on August 29, 2018, the PDEA accused Chan Yee Wah Albert, Zhang Quan, Vedasto Baraquel Jr., and Maria Lagrimas Catipan of possession of illegal drugs in violation of RA 9165.