MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) ordered the arrest of Chen Ju Long, also known as Richard Chen or Richard Tan, the forwarder of the P6.4-billion shabu shipment which was smuggled through the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Manila RTC Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio Montesta signed the resolution on February 22, seen by Rappler on Monday, March 12.
The court both denied Chen's motion to dismiss and ordered the issuance of a warrant against him. No bail was recommended.
The court does not have a return warrant yet, signaling that Chen remains at large. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said on Monday that it has no update yet on his whereabouts. The Bureau of Immigration (BI), meanwhile, said it has no record of any departure for a Richard Chen or Richard Tan.
Who is Chen? He is the alleged owner of the Philippine Hongfei Logistics Group of Companies Incorporated, the importer of the drug shipment. Chen supposedly used Kenneth Dong as his link to BOC fixer Mark Taguba.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he had received reports that Chen was trying to bribe BI officials to allow him to flee the Philippines.
The NBI in February launched a manhunt against everyone charged for the shabu shipment case, including Dong.
Why was his warrant late? He had a pending motion to dismiss, citing forum shopping and double jeopardy by the prosecution.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors refiled the case before the Manila court after their initial venue, a Valenzuela court, dismissed all cases for lack of jurisdiction.
Judge Montesa junked Chen's motion to dismiss, saying: "The court further finds that the filing of the present information does not place the accused in double jeopardy which would bar the prosecution in filing another information against him."
How crucial is he to the case? Senator Richard Gordon once called Chen the one "ultimately responsible" for the smuggling of shabu.
But Chen insisted the government should go after the shipper, not him as the forwarder.
However, Taguba said Chen is a "consolidator" in China, with companies allegedly going to him so the shipping fee would be divided among many senders.
Taguba maintained Chen is the real importer of the illegal drugs. Taguba had also said their middleman was Dong, an "acquaintance" of presidential son and former Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte.
What now? While they hunt down Chen, Taguba and Eirene Mae Tatad are behind bars.
The Senate blue ribbon committee continues to investigate corruption inside the BOC. – Rappler.com