“He’s a big failure in managing the bureau. In all previous leaderships under different administrations that I witnessed, this one is the most incompetent,” Lawyer Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang, deputy collector for passenger service at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport alleged.
Miguel de Guzman/File
BOC at its worst under Lapeña — whistle-blower
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - October 22, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is in its worst and darkest period under Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, an official alleged yesterday.

Lawyer Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang, deputy collector for passenger service at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport who has worked in the BOC for almost 30 years, said Lapeña is the most incompetent commissioner she has seen so far.

“He is the worst commissioner because of the many incidents of big-time smuggling in our ports,” she told The STAR.

“He’s a big failure in managing the bureau. In all previous leaderships under different administrations that I witnessed, this one is the most incompetent,” she alleged.

The BOC official cited the P6.8-billion shabu shipment that reportedly slipped past the bureau under Lapeña’s watch, for which she has recently testified in the Senate.

“It was a result of either incompetence and poor intelligence or connivance of his men with the drug syndicate,” Mangaoang stressed.

Mangaoang told the Senate about the lapses in BOC’s release of magnetic lifters seized by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Cavite in August.

Following Mangaoang’s testimony, Senate Blue Ribbon committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said reports that the magnetic lifters contained a ton of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu), which had been distributed in local markets, appeared to be supported by evidence.

“(Lapeña) knew that the magnetic lifters had something inside because I gave him (a) copy of the x-ray image. I told him that the image clearly showed that the lifters were not empty as claimed by his men,” Mangaoang recalled.

“All law enforcement agencies believe that the lifters had shabu. Only Lapeña is saying otherwise,” Mangaoang pointed out.

Even PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said Customs officials must be held liable if it is proven that they knew about the shabu shipment but did not do anything about it.

Aquino said Lapeña could be held liable due to command responsibility.

The Philippine National Police has vowed to work double time to recover the ton of shabu.

The National Bureau of Investigation is also conducting a fact-finding probe on the issue and is set to issue its report this week.

Apart from the shabu shipment, Mangaoang also cited the 105 containers illegally released and the 23,000 sacks of smuggled rice in Mindanao ports.

Lapeña denied allegations against him on the shabu shipment.

Lapeña attributed the charges to the ongoing “internal cleansing” in the BOC that he said affects several officials – even if the report on the shabu smuggling came from PDEA.

“Our internal cleansing and anti-corruption efforts must be hurting people from within and outside the organization that I feel there is a concerted effort to discredit the reforms we are doing,” Lapeña said in a statement last week.

“For the record, I ordered for an investigation early on, from the time that two magnetic lifters containing 355 kilos of shabu were intercepted at (Manila International Container Terminal). In fact, two investigation teams were created relevant to these incidents,” the BOC chief said.

Lapeña noted that all x-ray images were already forwarded to the House committee on dangerous drugs and the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

The Palace said Thursday that Lapeña still enjoys the trust and confidence of President Duterte.

Senators are beginning to doubt Lapeña’s capability to run the BOC following the damaging disclosures.

“One of the things we’re investigating in the illegal (drug) shipment that happened at the (BOC) is the involvement of the suspended officials in the transaction,” Gordon said in his Twitter account. – With Paolo Romero

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