Senate cites 2 Chinese in contempt for links to P6.4-B shabu

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate cited in contempt two Chinese nationals allegedly involved in the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of shabu from Xiamen into Manila.

Richard Tan and Manny Li drew the ire of senators for being "evasive" and inconsistent during the Senate hearing on Wednesday, August 9. The two would be placed under the custody of the Senate.

Tan is the owner of Hongfei, the company that transported the shipment containing 604 kilos of shabu. It was also Tan who informed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) about the illegal shipment last May, upon information from Chinese Customs. Li is one of his middlemen.

Tan strongly denied allegations of involvement and questioned why he was being accused of a crime when he told the BOC about the illegal drugs.

Speaking through a translator, he said: "Why am I being charged? I should not have informed the [BOC] about it."

But senators did not buy this, with Senator Panfilo Lacson saying Tan has been staying in the country for 20 years and has deep connections in the Philippine government.

"Niloloko mo kami (You're fooling us). You've been very evasive," Lacson said. "You've been here for 20 years, ilan na ang napapatay (many have been killed), and then tons of shabu are coming from China through your facilitation."

Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon said Tan's statements do not match the contents of his affidavit. Gordon also chided him for claiming he does not understand Filipino and English, when he was heard talking with his lawyer in Filipino.

"Paano kayo mag-usap? Niloloko 'nyo ako (How do you talk to each other? You're fooling us). Let the records show that he is talking to his counsel in Tagalog... You cannot fool us here," Gordon said.

Read Tan's affidavit:

Altered packing list

Senators also slammed Li, who is accused of altering the packing list to conceal 5 cylinders containing the shabu. The packing list is a document that details all items included in the shipment.

It was found that the original packing list prepared by Tan's Hongfei was in Chinese and included information on the 5 cylinders. It was then transmitted to Li before shipment to Manila.

Li then translated the packing list from Chinese to English and in the process removed the information on the 5 cylinders. When the list was passed on to Filipino brokers and fixers, there was no more information that the shipment contained such.

Wilkins Villanueva, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director for the National Capital Region, said the act was highly questionable.

"Nung nakita namin ang ipinadala ng China na packing list, nakalagay doon 5 cylinders. So may 5 cylinders talaga ibinigay ang Hongfei kay Manny Li. Pagbigay ni Manny Li kay Kenneth Dong (middleman in the Philippines), wala na 'yung 5 cranes. Naging moulder na," Villanueva told reporters after the hearing.

(When we saw the packing list sent by China, the 5 cylinders were indicated there. So there were really 5 cylinders in the list given by Hongfei to Manny Li. When Manny Li gave it to Kenneth Dong, the 5 cranes were already gone. It became moulders.)

"Para alisin mo 'yung 5 crates na nandoon 'yung drugs, may problema ka. Nakalagay do'n may moulder," Villanueva added, referring to the list received by the BOC.

(To remove from the list the 5 cylinders containing drugs, you have a problem there. They changed it to moulders.)

Lacson urged Li and Tan to prove they are not the most guilty and to name their superiors in the next hearing. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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