House panel to compel PDEA chief Aquino to attend its next hearing

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
House panel to compel PDEA chief Aquino to attend its next hearing
The House panel on illegal drugs on Tuesday voted to write a "strongly worded letter" to compel PDEA chief Aaron Aquino to attend its hearings on the supposed entry of billions worth of illegal drugs into the country.
The STAR / Joven Cagande, File

MANILA, Philippines — A House of Representatives panel on Tuesday voted to write a "strongly worded letter" to compel Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino to attend its next hearings.

The House Committee on Illegal Drugs is conducting an investigation into the alleged entry of P6.8 billion worth of crystal methamphetamine into the country last week.

The decision of the panel came after Rep. Romeo Acop (Antipolo) asked for the reason why Aquino was absent from today's hearing when it was he who issued the statement that created the problem they were probing.

Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (Surigao Del Norte), the committee's chairman, tried to explain that Aquino told him that he already had a prior engagement when he received the invitation to the hearing.

Barbers said Aquino was ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte himself to attend to the prior commitment.

Acop, however, insisted that Aquino be sent a strongly worded letter to compel him to attend the committee's next hearings.

"I'm a member of the Committee on Illegal Drugs. I have never seen nor do I know the face of the head of PDEA. In fact, when there was a hearing even in the presence of then-Speaker Alvarez and then-Majority Leader Farinas he was not around," Acop said.

"May I move that a strongly worded letter be written to the head of PDEA to attend these hearings simply because it is because of his statements that problems have cropped up? He is the only one who can answer these simply because these came from his own mouth," he added.

No one on the panel objected to the tabled motion.

The panel is probing into how P6.8 billion worth of illegal drugs slipped past the Bureau of Customs following the discovery of the magnetic lifters used to transport them were discovered in a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite last week.

Last week's discovery prompted Aquino to remark that a ton of shabu could have already made its way to the streets of the country.

Aquino said their dogs detected traces of illegal drugs in the empty magnetic lifters.

Bureau of Customs chief Isidro Lapeña contradicted this assertion and said that this allegation did not have a basis based on the result of analysis from PDEA and the Philippine National Police.

"The allegation that one ton of shabu is circulating in the market has no basis based on the result of laboratory analysis from the PDEA and [Philippine National Police], four magnetic lifters have no presence of dangerous drugs," Lapeña told the panel on Tuesday.

He also urged government authorities, in an apparent dig at Aquino, to be more prudent in providing unverified information to the public.






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