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Guerrero’s gambit

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MERRY-GO-ROUND

By FLORO L. MERCENE

Floro L. Mercene

Floro L. Mercene

From all indications, Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) appears to be a good man with a heart for service. Unfortunately, he was recently caught in a serious “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” situation.

Last May 24, agents of the BOC and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) seized more than P1 billion worth of crystal meth or shabu from a warehouse in Malabon. The cargo was in Malabon because the BOC auctioned it off to the public. The company that won the bid actually called the agents in, after sacks of shabu came pouring out of what they thought was a shipment of tapioca.

Obviously, P1 billion worth of shabu that passed undetected by both the BOC and the PDEA would be scandalous. The two agencies thus issued a joint statement claiming that they knew about the drugs all along. They allegedly auctioned it off to smoke out the drug smugglers through an entrapment operation disguised as a public bidding.

Soon after, however, Senator Ping Lacson tore this flimsy cover-up story to shreds, with official documents showing that both agencies cleared the shipment of any drugs. The PDEA stuck to its guns, claiming that the entrapment story was legitimate. If it was, Lacson pointed out, it was a clear violation of RA 10863, which states that under no circumstances should illegal goods be auctioned off.

Consequently, if Guerrero and the BOC admitted that they knew about the drugs, they broke the law. On the other hand, if they were unaware of the drugs, they were dangerously incompetent. Ultimately, they chose the latter and admitted that the initial story was concocted. The shabu had passed right under their noses.

Sadly, Guerrero’s gambit may very well cost him his job. President Duterte is obsessed about eradicating drugs, and he surely wouldn’t mind if a law was skirted to take down smugglers. The entrapment story may have even appealed to him, assuming he overlooks its logical flaws.

I don’t think he will look too kindly on gross incompetence, however, especially the type that results in drugs flooding the streets.

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