BUREAU of Customs (BoC) commissioner Rey Leonardo ‘Jagger’ Guerrero has decided to be on top of the agency’s anti-drug operations with the renewal of its partnership with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Guerrero yesterday, visited the PDEA office in Quezon City to sign an agreement with PDEA director general, Aaron Aquino, aimed at further strengthening the BoC and the PDEA’s cooperation in the campaign against illegal drugs.
The present MOA is an amendment to the previous agreement between PDEA and BoC signed on September 10, 2010.
Among the general provisions stated in the new agreement, members of the BoC Customs Anti-Illegal Drug Task Force (CAIDTF) shall be selected and under the direct control and supervision of the BoC commissioner. However, the PDEA director general may recommend the removal/replacement of any member for just causes, and after observance of due process.
The new agreement also states that PDEA shall take charge and have custody of seized and/or surrendered illegal drugs, and CPECs during BoC’s anti-illegal drug operations, and take the lead role in the conduct of anti-drug operations and investigation.
The relationship between the BoC and the PDEA was strained last year after an estimated 1,600 tons of shabu worth more than P11 billion was successfully smuggled into the country with PDEA claiming the shabu managed to get pass the BoC and the latter denying this happened.
Tagged behind the smuggling were PDEA deputy director, Ismael Fajardo, customs intelligence agent, Jimmy Guban and, police colonel, Jojo Acierto.
The resulting inquiry by both houses of Congress eventually led to the transfer of then customs commissioner, Isidro Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and his replacement by Guerrero in October 2018.
“Under the agreement, PDEA and BoC agree to observe utmost transparency to fulfill the conditions stated in the MOA, to create a drug interdiction task group to promote a closer working relationship between the parties, and exchange best practices and knowledge concerning smuggling, importation, transportation, and transshipment of dangerous drugs through seminars and workshops,” Aquino said.
The operational control of the BoC CAIDTF would be in the hands of Guerrero; he and Aquino, however, would have operational supervision over their men.
PDEA shall also deputize selected members of the BoC CAIDTF in the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations.
Under the MOA, PDEA is also committed to establish a comprehensive information collection plan to obtain information on illegal drug activities from sources at all levels, and provide a database system to serve as repository of the same.
Also, PDEA shall provide the BoC with any intelligence information regarding all shipments suspected to contain illegal drugs and CPECs.
“The new agreement is an opportunity for PDEA and the BoC to formally strengthen their partnership in the fight against illegal drug trafficking, emphasizing the need for transparency, and closer coordination and cooperation in the interception of smuggled drug contraband,” the PDEA chief added.