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Shabu in ‘lifters’ contained P11 billion and not P6.8 billion, PDEA chief claims

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino said Thursday the four magnetic lifters found in a Cavite warehouse in August could have contained shabu worth P11 billion, not P6.8 billion as earlier estimated.

Aquino, who said the missing shabu has already found its way into the market, said the new estimate was obtained by comparing the weight of the lifters and a truck similar to the one used to carry them, with its gross and net weight in the bill of lading.

The difference, 1.6 tons, if it were shabu, would have a street value of P11 billion, he said.

During a House inquiry earlier this week, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña backtracked on his insistence that the lifters contained no shabu, after testimony from a Public Works official said the lifters found in Cavite were larger and thicker than standard lifters.

Aquino on Thursday said he felt vindicated by Lapeña’s admission, but said he was blaming neither Lapeña nor the Bureau of Customs.

President Rodrigo Duterte later reassigned Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, a move he described as a promotion.

In another development, the Manila Regional Trial Court on Thursday acquitted the daughter of alleged drug queen Yu Yuk Lai of drug charges and ordered her release from detention.

Manila RTC Branch 49 said the search warrant against Diana Yu Uy was “invalid for lack of probable cause.” The supposed contraband seized from Uy in a PDEA raid was “inadmissible in evidence” as the court found “strong compelling evidence” that they were “planted.”

Uy was arrested in November last year at her condominium unit in San Miguel, Manila, near Malacañang. PDEA believes her to be an illegal drug dealer from inside the Bureau of Corrections in Mandaluyong City.

Sacked Customs deputy collector Lourdes Mangaoang said she also felt vindicated by Lapeña’s admission.

Lapeña sacked her after she insisted the empty lifters had, in fact, contained shabu.

“All the evidence now points to Commissioner Lapeña. He now admitted that the magnetic lifters contained drugs after repeatedly denying that [they did],” she said in a press conference Thursday.

Accompanied by officers of the Coalition Against Corruption, Mangaoang called on President Duterte to fire Lapeña, who she said might be covering up the shabu smuggling.

Also on Thursday, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, said Customs should conduct a physical examination, in addition to X-ray scanning, on all suspicious shipments in various seaports and airports.

Barbers’ panel and the House committee on good government and public accountability on Wednesday resumed their probe into the shabu smuggling scandal.

“We will conduct one more hearing to shed light on the matter,” Barbers said Thursday.

He added that drug syndicates would not be able to smuggle in billions of pesos of shabu without conniving with corrupt Customs officials.

READ: Shabu mess: Plot thickens

Topics: Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency , Aaron Aquino , Isidro Lapeña , Bureau of Customs
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