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Customs skirts controversial P1-B tapioca with drug shipment issue; waits for PDEA to answer allegations

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By Betheena Unite

The Bureau of Customs opted not to dwell on the “rehashed issue” of the controversial controlled delivery of P1-billion drug shipment after one of its officials belied that the shipment was auctioned off to lure drug smugglers.

Bureau of Customs (MANILA BULLETIN)

Bureau of Customs (MANILA BULLETIN)

Former Manila International Container Port District Collector Erastus Sandino Austria, who now heads the Port of Davao, bared Wednesday that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) fabricated the entrapment operation.

Austria claimed that it was only meant to conceal PDEA’s failure to detect the drugs prior to bidding.

As the controversy resurfaced, the Customs Bureau, however, chose not to dwell on it saying that it’s already an old issue.

“That’s an old issue that has been addressed by the bureau before, so we stand by our statement before and that it has been explained to the President and Sen. Panfilo Lacson by PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino and Commissioner Rey Guerrero,” Assistant Commissioner Vincent Maronilla said.

“They reached out to Senator Lacson and explained the matter at nag-explain din naman sila kay Presidente din kung ano talaga ang nangyari. We feel it’s already a rehashed issue. We will just ask PDEA first to comment on it before the bureau makes any comment,” Maronilla added.

Austria explained that they proceeded with the auction then based on the laboratory reports from the PDEA which shows that the shipment was negative of illegal drugs, contrary to the first joint statement of the PDEA and Customs that they knew that the shipment contained illegal drugs and auctioning if off would lead them to the drug smuggler.

“We are not denying anything; we’re just saying that for this particular purpose since PDEA is the lead agency for any anti-illegal drug operation, it would be better for us to await PDEA’s statement first on the matter. They can clarify what really happened,” Maronilla said speaking for the Customs Bureau.

The bureau, however, maintained that they only auctioned off tapioca starch and not the illegal drugs. They also affirmed that they only learned about the presence of shabu in the pallets when the Goldwin Commercial, who won the bidding, came forward and reported that they found the illegal drugs on the contents.

The bureau then also agreed on releasing a joint statement with the PDEA saying that they actually learned about the drugs prior to bidding, which they later corrected.

“We felt that, we thought that PDEA had the right story then, hindi rin naman namin sinasabi na malicious ang PDEA, it’s just that PDEA might have a reason for doing that and we leave it up to them to explain,” Maronilla said.

“Ang sabi lang sa’min we just follow the statement of PDEA because they were the lead agency to it and we felt that they had valid reasons. We wanted to be consistent with their statements also,” the assistant commissioner added.

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