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Need to revisit ‘report’ on misdeclared shabu stressed

THE chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs on Sunday expressed support for a House resolution by three Mindanao lawmakers seeking to find out the truth behind the apparently “flawed narratives” of certain Bureau of Customs (BoC) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) officers on the shipment of P1.16 billion worth of shabu declared as tapioca starch in January last year.

Barbers, panel chairman, said said there is an urgent need to revisit, review and reinvestigate the alleged reports of the BoC, including the PDEA, on the controversial incident.

“Ang BoC ang tinatawag nating gateway ng lahat ng produkto na pumapasok sa ating bansa, kasama na ang mga smuggled goods, illegal drugs at iba pa. Sa madaling salita, sila ang OPR or office of primary responsibility kapag may pumapasok na droga tulad ng shabu sa mga sea at airports ng ating bansa,” he said.

“Ibig sabihin, dadaan muna sa kamay nila ang pag-examine, pag-X-ray at pagproseso ng lahat ng kargamento, legal man o illegal. Sa usapin ng ilegal drugs, BoC muna ang dadaanan nito bago pa pumasok o manghimasok ang PDEA sa kaso,” he added.

ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, also chairman of the House committee on appropriations, MARINO party-list Rep. Sandro Gonzalez and Dumper-PTDA party-list Rep. Claudine Diana Bautista filed their signed House Resolution (HR) 1330 dated November 3, 2020, calling on Barber’s panel to conduct the probe.

Based on separate media reports made by the BoC and PDEA, Barbers said the shipment consigned to Goroyam Rice Trading was declared as tapioca starch and arrived in January 2019 on three 20-footer shipping containers.

Tapioca starch, known locally as ‘sago’ often used in sweet drinks and/or taho, is made from the root of the cassava plant. Although it can be used as flour for baking, it is mainly used as a thickener.

“Simply put, dumating ‘yung shipment ng January 2019; nagpalit ng pangalan ‘yung consignee, in-approve ng MICP (Manila International Container Port); na-forfeit in favor of government dahil walang entry pass; ipina-schedule ng auction ang shipment; sinabi ng PDEA later na may lamang shabu ‘yung shipment; at ipina-examine sa BoC at PDEA ‘yung shipment sa examination area ng MICP,” Barbers said.

“Ang nakapagtataka, pagkatapos ng examination noong March 5, 2019, sinabi ng BoC at PDEA sa kanilang report na ‘yung mga ‘specimens collected and submitted ‘do not contain any dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals,’” he added.

“With no drugs found,” Barbers said, adding the MICP scheduled the shipment’s auction on April 22, 2019 wherein the Goldwin Commercial was declared as the highest bidder.