DOJ forms prosecution to handle raps vs PDEA, BOC over P1-B shabu auction
This file photo shows PDEA agents. The PDEA said it received intelligence information that drugs concealed in tapioca would be delivered to the country in January 2019.
The STAR/KJ Rosales, file

DOJ forms prosecution to handle raps vs PDEA, BOC over P1-B shabu auction

(Philstar.com) - March 5, 2021 - 12:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice has formed a three-member panel of prosecutors to handle the criminal complaints against Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Customs officials over a shipment of P1 billion worth of shabu stashed in tapioca starch in 2019.

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento told reporters on Friday that Senior Assistant Rassendell Rex Gingoyon will lead the panel, with Assistant State Prosecutor Mary Jane Sytat and ASP Ethel Rhea Suril as members.

Malcontento earlier said they will not conduct face-to-face preliminary investigation into the NBI’s complaint, but will order parties to submit pleadings instead.

The STAR reported that the National Bureau of Investigation filed drugs, graft, grave misconduct, serious dishonesty as well as violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Employees, Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service raps against several PDEA and BOC officers last month.

Named as respondents are PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva, former PDEA chief Aaron Aquino and BOC Commissioner Rey Guerrero.

Also facing raps are BOC Deputy Commissioner Raniel Ramiro, and PDEA directors Joel Plaza, Aldrin Albarino, Jigger Montallana and other agents.

The complaint stemmed from the smuggling of 171 kilos of shabu found concealed in aluminum pallets in a tapioca starch shipment.

The PDEA said it received intelligence information that drugs hidden in tapioca will be delivered to the country in January 2019.

Authorities reportedly found an abandoned tapioca shipment in March and put it up for auction the following month supposedly to draw out possible members of drug rings.

The drug haul was confiscated in May in the warehouse of the winning bidder in Malabon. The BOC had insisted that it only auctioned off tapioca.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in May 2019, sounded the alarm on the auction in May 2019. In a privilege speech, the senator raised suspicion that the auction of three shipping containers was just a cover-up of a botched drug delivery by corrupt BOC officials.

The PDEA, upon filing of complaint, said they are ready to answer the allegations and clear the names of their officials and agents in the proper forum. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from The STAR/Evelyn Macairan

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