By Macon Araneta i FilAm Star Correspondent

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drug, is set to grill officials of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) over  the smuggling of PHP1 billion worth of shabu concealed inside a shipment of tapioca starch and aluminum  pallets.

To be summoned to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing in the opening of the 18th Congress are BoC Commissioner Reynaldo Guerrero and two of his classmates in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), retired Gen. Donato San Juan, and Gen. Raniel Ramiro.

Guerrero, a member of PMA Class 1984, was the third Customs commissioner appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, replacing retired P/Gen. Isidro Lapena and former Philippine Marines officer Nicanor Faeldon.

Both Lapena and Faeldon were hounded with controversies in connection with the smuggling of multi-billion pesos of shabu.

Lacson said the Senate will also summon PDEA Dir. Gen. Aaron Aquino and make him explain how the illegal drugs were smuggled in Aduana amid their strict monitoring of all shipments  arriving in the country.

In a privilege speech, Lacson assailed the BoC and PDEA officials for dishonesty over the 140-kilos of shabu seized inside a warehouse in Malabon City.

The Senator said he would also question PDEA officials on their participation in the auction of illegal drugs and their decision to auction the contraband.

“Hindi mo na kailangang pag-isipan pa para makita ang mga butas sa gawa-gawang kwento ng mga opisyal na ito ng mga nasabing ahensiya,” emphasized Lacson, who served as PNP chief.

BoC and PDEA officials earlier claimed that they deliberately  auctioned the contraband and use them as bait to draw out and arrest the real importers of the illegal drugs.

However, Lacson rejected their alibi and even branded it “unbelievable and a deception to the public.”

He described the move as not only illegal but also stupid because illegal drug importers knew the auctioned goods were thoroughly inspected for contraband.

He said that the shipment should have been destroyed under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act or Republic Act No. 10863.

“In this case, prohibited goods, including the shabu contained in 114 bags inside the aluminum pallets with tapioca starch, as provided in Section 1146 of this Act, should be destroyed, and therefore should not have been offered for sale in a public auction,” Lacson also said in a privilege speech.

The Senator also took issue with authorities’ line of reasoning that it falls under a strategy called “controlled delivery.” He pointed out that the operation went completely different from the nature of “controlled delivery.”

“Controlled delivery, my foot! What we know from experience and knowledge of the procedure in controlled delivery is that this investigative technique targets specific consignees under the supervision of authorized project officers basically for the purpose of gathering evidence against the person/s involved in smuggling-related offenses,” Lacson said.

“Did Customs and PDEA officials really expect the owners of this shipment to actually participate in the said public auction knowing fully well that forfeited and seized commodities undergo 100 percent physical examination prior to disposition?” he added.

Lacson also revealed that it was the winning bidder who reported that drugs were inside the shipment.

Quoting a report from PDEA, Lacson said the shipment “(does) not contain any dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals.”

It was auctioned because the content was said to be “perishable by nature,” he added.

“It does not take much to figure out the holes in the plot that some not-so-smart characters in these agencies tried to fabricate but failed miserably.”

“Simply put, this is a case of dishonesty with the intention of misleading the public,” he added.