By Mario Casayuran
The country’s illegal drugs problem remains an unstoppable multi-billion-peso gravy train as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) circumvented the law by auctioning off P1 billion worth of smuggled ‘’shabu’’ (crystal meth) last April 22.
What the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (Republic Act 10863) allows is that seized illegal drugs must be burned and not offered for sale in a public auction, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson in a privilege speech at the Senate session hall.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, did not bite the rationale behind the decision of BOC and PDEA to auction off the drugs was to draw out drug syndicate members who might bid for the 146 kilos of ‘’shabu’’ misdeclared as tapioca starch that came from Cambodia.
This scheme is called ‘’controlled delivery’’ but Lacson said: ‘’Controlled Delivery, my foot.’’
It was auctioned off because a BOC official reported that the ‘’tapioca starch’’ shipment is perishable.
The winning bidder, Goldwin Commodity at Santolan, Malabon city, reported to the BOC that the shipment was actually ‘’shabu.’’
This was discovered when one of the aluminum pallets containing the dangerous drug fell during a cleaning process.
He also demanded answers to questions why Zhijian Xu, alias ‘’Jacky Co,’’ the alleged mastermind of the P 1 billion ‘’shabu’’ shipment, was able to slip out of the country aboard a Philippine Airlines flight to Vietnam after the seizure of the drug shipment.
He said Jacky Co is on the watch list of the International Police (Interpol) and ‘’is subject to on-going verification by our local law enforcement agencies with their Southeast Asian counterparts.’’
Lacson cited past seizures by government agencies of billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs since the start of the Duterte administration.
But the continued seizures of illegal drugs mean drug smuggling in the country is rampant.
‘’We put the BOC and PDEA on notice that we were not born yesterday,’’ Lacson said.
Lacson rued that the ‘’tara’’ system (weekly or monthly payola) remains at the BOC.
Under this scheme, BOC personnel or officials receive payola from smugglers and hand the share of BOC leaders depending on their positions.
He said the BOC faces another question in leadership and management with the appointment of relieved MICP Collector Vener Baquiran to an even higher post as BOC Deputy Commissioner.
Lacson said Baquiran was one of the identified bagmen in the long list of BOC officials receiving payola.
He pointed out that Baquiran was being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ) and which even recommended the filing of criminal charges for Baquiran’s failure to prevent the smuggling of P6.8 billion worth of ‘’shabu’’ hidden in magnetic lifters in August, 2018.
‘’May I ask how can the Bureau thoroughly and sincerely address the country’s drug problem if instead of punishing the corrupt or incompetent, or both, this administration is even rewarding these people with other positions in government? Sadly, what they cannot completely throw away, they tend to recycle. This time, at the expense of BOC’s credibility and to the detriment of the public,’’ he said.
These incidents, according to Lacson, is yet another standing challenge to BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
‘’The Filipino people demand much from your (Guerrero’s) leadership,’’ he added.