Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña on Tuesday accused his accuser, sacked deputy collector Lourdes Mangaoang, of being used by a drug syndicate to tarnish the image of the Bureau of Customs and to replace him as its head.
“There is no doubt that these attacks against me and the officers, [the] men and women of the Bureau of Customs, is a well-funded and coordinated attack to undermine the reforms I started,” Lapeña told reporters.
“She could be being used wittingly or unwittingly by a drug syndicate,” he said of Mangaoang who has been transferred to the Customs Monitoring Unit.
Lapeña made his statement even as Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Aaron Aquino said he was willing to face any investigation into the shipment of shabu worth P6.8 billion that supposedly slipped past the Bureau of Customs in August.
PDEA deputy director general Ricardo Santiago said the agency will stand by its findings that the magnetic lifters abandoned in a warehouse in Cavite contained shabu.
“Our dog sat down when it smelled traces of shabu inside the magnetic lifters,” Santiago told reporters on the sidelines of the launching of Grab Philippines’ road safety map.
Meanwhile, civic groups are urging the PDEA to either put up evidence to back its claim that an alleged P6.4 billion worth of shabu had slipped past the Bureau of Customs or shut up and buckle down to work if it could not produce a single gram of evidence.
Ed Cordevilla, head of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance or FLAG, made the statement after PDEA and Customs officials continued trading accusations over the shabu.
“They have yet to produce any evidence to back their claims that shabu was spirited out of Customs,” Cordevilla said.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself publicly stated his reservation regarding the veracity of PDEA’s claim. Recently, PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde even doubted the insinuations that the price of shabu had become cheap due to a flood of supplies as alleged by the head of PDEA.”
Mangaoaong, who was also placed under a lifestyle check on suspicions of corruption, was removed by Lapeña after she claimed in a Senate hearing that the four magnetic lifters released by the bureau and later found in a warehouse in Cavite contained P6.8 billion worth of shabu.
“The issue against us is being manipulated by the drug syndicates in order that it will be diverted away from them,” Lapeña said.
“The syndicates have penetrated the government. They exist in the Bureau of Customs, they exist in PDEA and they exist in other branches of government.”
Lapeña also denied removing Mangaoang, who was formerly Customs X-ray division chief, from her post, saying it was a management decision based on the recommendation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport District Collector.
“The issue on X-rays and all those noises are smokes and mirrors”•technicalities being used to divert the public from the main issue,” Lapeña said.
“We should focus. Even President Duterte has revealed the personalities behind the government drug syndicate.”
Lapeña appealed to Aquino against pointing fingers and instead work together to solve the drug menace in the country.
“My doors are open for dialogue. Let us together fight the syndicate. There are still personalities in the drug matrix on the loose,” Lapeña said. With Rio N. Araja and Rey E. Requejo