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PDEA head, Customs chief et al charged over P1B shabu

CHARGES have been filed against Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva, Bureau of Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero, and several other public and private individuals before the Department of Justice in connection with the shipment of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu concealed in tapioca starch seized in 2019.

In the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation, Guerrero along with Customs Deputy Commissioner Raniel Ramiro and former PDEA director general Aaron Aquino were charged with violation of Section 4(c) of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees.

On the other hand, Villanueva, Aquino, and Ramiro were sued for violations of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The NBI also charged 17 government officials and employees, and several private individuals with violations of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, and for illegal drugs.

The complaint was filed before the DOJ after the NBI conducted an investigation into the alleged smuggling of shabu worth P1 billion two years ago that was found to be hidden in aluminum pallets in a tapioca starch shipment.

It was former National Police chief and now Sen. Panfilo Lacson who blew the whistle on the “tapioca starch” incident.

In March 2019, abandoned “tapioca starch” shipment at the Manila International Container Terminal was auctioned off and bought by winning bidder Goldwin Commercial.

But Goldwin Commercial told authorities that the shipment, which came from Cambodia, actually contained 146 kilograms of shabu hidden inside aluminum pallets.

According to Lacson, PDEA may have known that the shipment contained shabu but did not inform the BOC and MICT.