Lapeña contests raps over shabu shipment before DOJ

By Benjamin Pulta

February 21, 2019, 8:24 pm

MANILA-- Former customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña appeared before the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors Thursday and filed his counter-affidavit to charges implicating him in the shipment of multi-billion pesos worth of illegal drugs smuggled into the country inside magnetic lifters.

Lapeña was accompanied by his counsel and opted not to comment to newsmen on the charges now pending before the DOJ.

During the hearing, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) formally filed a motion for clarification before the prosecution panel asking that the charges earlier filed against one of the respondents, Deputy Collector for Operations Michael Angelo Vargas, be dropped.

The NBI said Vargas who is assigned at the airport customs office, was mistakenly included in the charge sheet.

Senior State Prosecutor Mary Jane Sytat, who heads the prosecution panel handling the case, denied the NBI motion, adding that it would be prejudicial to the other respondents who might be similarly situated.

The DOJ panel scheduled on March 4 and 7 the ocular visits to the customs compound in Manila and the Cavite warehouses where the magnetic lifters were recovered.

Aside from Lapeña, former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Deputy Director for Administration Ismael Fajardo, former deputy customs commissioner for intelligence Ricardo Quinto and dismissed Senior Supt. Eduardo P. Acierto also failed to attend the hearing to file their counter-affidavits to the complaint consolidated with the one initiated by the PDEA.

In a letter requesting for a preliminary investigation last month, the NBI named more than three dozen individuals allegedly involved in the shipment of drugs through magnetic lifters.

Investigators said District Collector Vener Baquiran was also remiss with his duty to prevent smuggling when he did not declare the two magnetic lifters abandoned within the period prescribed by law.

The NBI recommended dereliction of duty, violation of graft laws and grave misconduct charges against Lapeña and other concerned government officials.

Aside from Sytat, other members of the DOJ panel are Prosecutors Giono Paolo S. Santiago, Jervis A. Gaspar and prosecution lawyers Jayvee Laurence B. Bandong and Mary Grace S. Arboladura. (PNA)