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PDEA, BOC chiefs face raps for P1 billion shabu auction
The PDEA said it received intelligence information that drugs concealed in tapioca would be delivered to the country in January 2019.
KJ Rosales/File

PDEA, BOC chiefs face raps for P1 billion shabu auction

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - February 25, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday filed complaints of graft and grave misconduct against Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Wilkins Villanueva, former PDEA chief Aaron Aquino and Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rey Guerrero over a shipment of P1 billion worth of shabu stashed in tapioca starch in 2019.

Also charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) were BOC Deputy Commissioner Raniel Ramiro as well as PDEA directors Joel Plaza, Aldrin Albarino, Jigger Montallana and several anti-narcotics agents.

The respondents are facing charges related to 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.

The charges stemmed from the smuggling of 171 kilos of shabu that were found to be hidden in aluminum pallets in a tapioca starch shimpment.

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

Authorities reportedly found an abandoned tapioca shipment in March and put it up for auction in April allegedly 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.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the DOJ would form a panel of prosecutors to handle the complaints against the respondents.

The PDEA pointed out that Villanueva should not have been included in the charge sheet as he was the regional director of the agency’s Northern Mindanao field office when the drugs were auctioned.

“The agency is ready to answer every allegation. PDEA officials and agents who were charged are ready to clear their names in the proper forum,” the PDEA said in a statement.

Villanueva assumed the PDEA post in May 2020, replacing Aquino who was appointed president of Clark International Airport Corp.

Aquino refused to comment on the charges. – Emmanuel Tupas

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