Escudero hits BOC for 'slow' response to smuggled shabu

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Escudero criticized the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for being "soft" on those involved in the P6.4 billion worth of shabu smuggled from China into Manila.

Escudero pointed out the government's seeming double standard on dealing with illegal drugs. Small-time drug users and dealers, he said, are being killed in the drug war, while the big fish are being treated favorably.

"'Pag gramo ng shabu nanlalaban parati, pinapatay. Ito, P6.4 billion worth na, sobrang ingat 'nyo, sobrang babait 'nyo, kailangan pa malaman who the real culprits are," Escudero said on Wednesday, August 9, during the second Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the smuggled shabu.

(When there are only a few grams of shabu involved, they say suspects fought back so police killed them. But here, there is P6.4 billion worth of shabu, yet you are extra careful. You are so kind that you have to find out first who the real culprits are.)

The BOC has yet to file cases against those involved, including the consignee, broker, trucking firm, and warehouse owner. But for the senator, this should already be automatic.

Both the consignee and broker – EMT Trading and Teejay Marcellana, respectively – admitted allowing themselves to be used by Mark Ruben Taguba, the fixer, in exchange for a fee. (READ: Senators see customs, Chinese 'connivance' in P6.4-B smuggled shabu)

"'Di ba dapat automatic? Nagpagamit silang lahat, either sa katangahan o kainosentehan man, pikit-mata 'yun, kakasuhan dapat lahat. Bahala kayo mag-away-away. Bahala kayo magturuan. Dalawang buwan na, P6.4 billion, ang iingat naman ninyo," Escudero said.

(Isn't the filing of charges supposed to be automatic? They allowed themselves to be used, either through stupidity or ignorance, so all of them should be charged. Let them fight. Let them blame each other. It's been two months, P6.4 billion, yet you're being so careful.)

Escudero also told the BOC to address loopholes in its system, where accreditations are being leased to others, aiding in smuggling.

Lawmakers have called for Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon's resignation but President Rodrigo Duterte has so far stood by his appointee. Duterte said he would wait for the findings of the congressional investigations before deciding on the issue.

Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, presidential son, was implicated in the controversy as well. The vice mayor, in a Senate hearing in 2016, was also linked by former Davao policeman Arthur Lascañas to an earlier shipment of shabu also from China.

The alleged involvement of the younger Duterte was neither discussed nor mentioned in the Senate hearing led by administration ally Senator Richard Gordon. – Rappler.com