MANILA- Former Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña was a no-show at the Department of Justice’s probe into the multi-billion peso magnetic lifters drug shipment on Monday, citing official duties for his absence.
Lapeña, now director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, was represented by his lawyer, John Telan, who asked for more time to file his counter-affidavit.
Lapeña is facing 2 counts each of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and administrative complaints of dereliction of duty and grave misconduct over his failure to file complaints against the consignees, importers and brokers of the 2 magnetic lifters which were discovered with "shabu" at the Port of Manila and the 4 magnetic lifters that slipped past Customs and found empty in Cavite.
The 2 abandoned magnetic lifters at the Port of Manila in August 2018 contained 355 kilos of shabu worth P2.4 billion while the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency believes the magnetic lifters in Cavite contained as much as 1.6 tons of shabu worth an estimated P11 billion.
Around 50 others are facing criminal and administrative raps in the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation in January. PDEA also filed complaints in August and December last year against more than 40 individuals.
Lapeña was named a respondent only in the NBI complaint.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino had earlier said they found no evidence linking Lapeña to the alleged shabu shipment.
OTHER HIGH-RANKING OFFICIALS INVOLVED
Aside from Lapeña, former PDEA OIC-Deputy Director for Administration and NCR regional director Ismael Fajardo, Jr. is the highest-ranking government official tagged in the shabu shipment complaints filed by both the NBI and PDEA. He was sacked in September 2018.
Dismissed police officer Eduardo Acierto was also named in all the complaints, along with Customs career intelligence officer Jimmy Guban.
The NBI said the 3 knew about the shabu shipments from Malaysia but did not make the necessary coordination to intercept the shipments.
Fajardo and Acierto had not been participating in the DOJ’s probe and neither did they send any lawyer on Monday.
Guban, who submitted his counter-affidavit on Monday, refused to speak to the media, citing his admission into the DOJ’s witness protection program upon the recommendation of the Senate blue ribbon committee.
But in his counter-affidavit, Guban insisted on his innocence, saying he was not involved in the illegal importation of the two sets of magnetic lifters.
He said he was, in fact, involved in the “discovery and apprehension” of the 2 magnetic lifters abandoned in the Port of Manila.
And although he admitted facilitating the release of the 4 magnetic lifters later found empty in Cavite, he claimed he had “no idea” the magnetic lifters contained anything else other than those indicated in the declaration.
Most of the respondents in the DOJ’s probe have submitted their counter-affidavits except for a few, including Lapeña, who have yet to comply.
The DOJ panel of prosecutors led by Assistant State Prosecutor Mary Jane Sytat gave them until February 21 to file their counter-affidavits.
The PDEA and NBI are also given the same period to file their reply-affidavits if they wish to rebut the arguments raised by the respondents in the counter-affidavits.
The DOJ panel scheduled another setting for the probe on March 4.