By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, December 13 2018; Business World


Image Credit to Philippine Star

THE PHILIPPINE Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Thursday charged 44 people, including former PDEA deputy director general for administration Ismael G. Fajardo, Jr. and former Bureau of Customs (BoC) intelligence agent Jimmy S. Guban, in connection with the importation of illegal drugs kept in magnetic lifters that slipped past the BoC.

Messrs. Fajardo and Guban will be charged for violation of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, over the magnetic lifters discovered at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) on Aug. 7, and in General Mariano Alvarez (GMA), Cavite on Aug. 8.

They are also charged for obstruction of justice, negligence and tolerance under the Revised Penal Code, and violation of Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Other principal suspects in the complaints are Senior Superintendent Eduardo P. Acierto, Police Inspector Lito Pirote and Joseph Dimayuga,

Twelve individuals were sued in connection with the magnetic lifters seized in the MICP containing shabu worth P2.4 billion, while 27 were charged over the empty magnetic lifters found in GMA, Cavite, which allegedly contained P11-billion worth of illegal drugs.

The PDEA noted in its complaint the alleged scheme established by witnesses and some of the respondents in their testimonies before separate probes at the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“(T)he MICP and GMA lifters were brought into the Philippines and traded through an established scheme spearheaded by no less than Acierto, Dir. Fajardo, and Guban, who have taken advantage of their respective government positions and influences, with the able aid of their subordinates,” the complaint read.

Mr. Guban was cited in contempt during the probe and was kept under the Senate’s custody, then transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation after the senate inquiry.

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra in October said he agreed with Sen. Richard J. Gordon that Mr. Guban will be considered for coverage under the witness protection program (WPP) upon compliance with the requirements.

However, Czareanah DG Aquino, acting director of PDEA Legal and Prosecution Service, said the agency will not recommend Mr. Guban to be discharged as state witness.

“We consider him as a principal person of interest or suspect so I don’t think we will recommend his inclusion in the WPP,” she said in a press conference.

Furthermore, PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino said former BoC chief and now Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Isidro S. Lapeña was not charged as they did not find any evidence that would link him to the shipment.

“We haven’t seen any evidence that will link directly si former Commissioner Lapeña sa mga kaso(in the cases). And that is why he was not included in the filing of the case,” he said.

However, Mr. Aquino said they will forward the complaints to the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and “maybe in the Ombudsman” to determine Mr. Lapeña’s liability for an administrative case.

Mr. Lapeña resigned as BoC commissioner in August following the controversy on the import of illegal drugs. He was appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as TESDA director general on Oct. 25.