NBI arrests Taguba, hunts down 6 others in shabu shipment case

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is hunting down 6 persons charged in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment smuggled to the Philippines from China.

“Agents of the NBI now are in the different parts of the country to try to locate the others stated in the warrant,” said NBI spokesperson Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin in a news conference on Thursday, February 1.

The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 ordered the arrest of 8 people charged for drug importation, including customs broker Mark Taguba. The charges are non-bailable.

The NBI has already accounted for Taguba after he was turned over to them by the Senate Wednesday evening, January 31. Taguba has been under the protective custody of the Senate ever since the investigations in the upper house started.

Taguba was presented to the media on Thursday, and will stay at the NBI detention cell pending a commitment order from the Manila RTC.

EIRENE MAE TATAD. Eirene Mae Tatad, one of Mark Taguba's co-accused in the P6.4B shabu shipment from China is presented by members of National Bureau of Investigation during press briefing on February 2, 2018. Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

EIRENE MAE TATAD. Eirene Mae Tatad, one of Mark Taguba's co-accused in the P6.4B shabu shipment from China is presented by members of National Bureau of Investigation during press briefing on February 2, 2018.

Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

Eirene Mae Tatad was arrested in Iloilo and will be brought to Manila, the NBI said on Friday, February 2.

The 6 people at large include Kenneth Dong, who was hastily arrested from inside the Senate after a hearing there on August 15, 2017 for a charge of rape. The rape charge has been dismissed and he has been a free man since.

NBI is hunting down the following:

Richard Chen 

Another Chinese middleman Chen Ju Long a.k.a. “Richard Tan” or “Richard Chen” was also charged for drug importation but the court’s arrest order did not include him due to a pending motion to dismiss.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier said that he has information that Chen once tried to bribe an immigration personnel with P10 million to try and flee the country.

The NBI is involved in the shabu shipment case insofar as arresting the subjects of a warrant, but they remain hands-off on a more comprehensive case-buildup on the shabu shipment scandal.

“We leave that to the court considering that the NBI has already submitted its findings to the Department of Justice and the DOJ has already filed a case, we leave that to the court,” Lavin said.

NBI and the shabu shipment case 

The DOJ usually taps the NBI for investigations of high-profile cases, but it did not in the shabu shipment case for lack of authorization at the time. It was during this time, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a memorandum which designated the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as sole agency to implement the war on drugs.

That memorandum has since been replaced and the DOJ has brought back NBI’s investigative powers in the war on drugs.

Asked if they are now investigating the shabu shipment case for other leads, including the liability of former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, the NBI did not answer directly.

“The NBI revived our task force on anti illegal drugs and they are conducting investigation and tracking down suspected drug users and pushers, and also drug laboratories but I cannot talk about the particulars of drug operations because this is being done by our task force on anti drugs,” said Vicente De Guzman, NBI’s Deputy Director for Investigation Service.

The DOJ has dismissed the complaint against Faeldon et al. due to a defective complaint by PDEA. However, the PDEA is appealing the dismissal saying the DOJ panel “suppressed the truth.” 

In our last query on January 24, the DOJ said it was still studying signing a Department Order formally assigning the NBI to conduct a case buildup on the shabu shipment case. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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