PDEA chief Aquino goes on leave amid P6.8-B shabu controversy

MANILA, Philippines – As the controversy still rages on the alleged one ton of shabu (methamphetamine) escaping the country's frontline anti-drug agencies, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino goes on a leave.

This was confirmed by Aquino himself in a text message to reporters on Thursday, August 16, saying that he had asked for the leave 6 months earlier.

Why is he on leave? Aquino has not replied to questions of where he is spending his leave and why he went on leave in the first place.

Given that the PDEA is under the Office of the President, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque was asked by reporters in a Thursday briefing whether he knew of Aquino's leave. He said he also did not know.

"This is in fact, the first time I learned that he’s gone on leave," he said during the briefing.

Presence wanted: Aquino has been sought for comment ever since the House probe into the alleged missing one ton of shabu estimated to be worth P6.8 billion which began on Tuesday. Aquino only relayed to lawmakers that he was in a "very important" out of town commitment to attend to.

This irked the probing House dangerous drugs committee to compel him to attend the next session.

"It is because of his statements that there are certain problems that have cropped up, and he will be the only one who will be able to answer this simply because these statements came from his own mouth," Antipolo 2nd District Representative Romeo Acop said during the probe on Tuesday.

Aquino's statements: Aquino blamed the alleged missing one ton of shabu on "corrupt employees from Customs." (READ: How P6.8-B 'shabu' slipped past PNP, PDEA, Customs)

Bureau of Customs chief Isidro Lapeña fired back that Aquino's statement "has no basis" because the magnetic lifters where the supposed one ton of shabu had allegedly been stuffed tested negative of illegal drugs from their swab test.

Aquino's deputy chiefs still made a stand during the House probe, defending the PDEA's story that the lifters were filled with drugs . They cited intelligence reports and that their K-9s sat down while inspecting the containers—a signal that the sniffer dogs detected the scent of illegal drugs. (EXCLUSIVE: PDEA laboratory test shows no shabu traces in magnetic lifters)

But at the end of the day, President Rodrigo Duterte sided with Customs, tagging Aquino's claim that the lifters used to contain drugs was "pure speculation." – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.