MANILA - A local court has issued arrest warrants for former cop Eduardo Acierto and 7 others for drug charges over the multi-billion shabu shipment which allegedly slipped past Customs, hidden inside magnetic lifters.
In separate arrest warrants dated April 12, a copy of which was shown to ABS-CBN News, Manila RTC Branch 35 Judge Maria Bernardita Santos ordered the arrest of Acierto, former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) deputy chief Ismael Fajardo, Jr., and former Customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban.
The three were identified by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as the core conspirators in the criminal and administrative complaints it filed with the DOJ in January this year.
Also ordered arrested are:
-Chan Yee Wah Albert alias KC Chan/Fhonie Chan/Albert Chan/Chen Fong Hsiang
-Zhou Quan alias Zhang Quan/Zhauq Quan
-Vedasto Baraquel, Jr.
-Maria Lagrimas Catipan
All 5 were allegedly behind VECABA Trading, the consignee of the 2 unclaimed magnetic lifters in the Port of Manila where 355 kilos of shabu worth P2.4 billion were found.
A panel of DOJ prosecutors on April 8 found probable cause to charge the 8 accused with illegal importation of dangerous drugs case under sec. 4 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
They also endorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman criminal complaints for graft and neglect in prosecution of offenses against former Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña.
But they recommended the dismissal of the drug smuggling complaints against more than 40 others, composed of BOC officials, shippers, consignees and brokers implicated in the scandal. Other administrative and criminal complaints had also been dismissed for lack of probable cause.
The case stemmed from the discovery of 2 abandoned magnetic lifters at the Port of Manila in August 2018 which contained 355 kilos of shabu worth P2.4 billion.
A day after, 4 similar lifters were discovered abandoned at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite which PDEA believes contained 1.6 tons of shabu worth an estimated P11 billion.
The 2 incidents became the subject of several Senate and House hearings, with Lapeña initially denying that the magnetic lifters found in Cavite contained shabu, only to concede later on.
In August 2018, PDEA filed an illegal drug importation complaint against 4 respondents involved in the shabu shipment at the Port of Manila.
In December 2018, PDEA filed criminal complaints against more than 40 respondents over the shabu shipment in Cavite. The respondents included Acierto, Fajardo and Guban but Lapeña was excluded because PDEA said they found no evidence linking him to shabu smuggling.
In January this year, the NBI filed complaints for importation of illegal drugs, graft and grave misconduct against the three while it slapped Lapeña and other officials with 2 counts each of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and administrative complaints of dereliction of duty and grave misconduct.
Acierto had recently come out of hiding to accuse former Duterte economic adviser Michael Yang of involvement in the illegal drug trade. He also claimed the President himself ignored reports about Yang’s activities.
He said he was being set up and implicated in the magnetic lifters shabu shipment case after he sent a report to then Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa and PDEA chief Aaron Aquino detailing Yang’s alleged illicit activities.
Dela Rosa had admitted Acierto approached him once about Yang but dismissed his credibility.
Aquino, on other hand, admitted seeing the report but said they had a hard time validating the information.
Guban, meanwhile, testified in the Senate and accused Acierto of asking his help to smuggle shabu into the country. He is currently under the witness protection program of the DOJ.
Fajardo had not surfaced and like Acierto, did not participate in the DOJ probe.