Gordon fumes over party photo of PDEA chief with ex-officials tagged in shabu smuggling

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(L-R), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) deputy chief for administration Ismael Fajardo, dismissed Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, and PDEA chief Aaron Aquino

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 22) — Senator Richard Gordon on Thursday expressed outrage over a photo of top drug buster Aaron Aquino in a birthday party with former law enforcement officials tagged in the smuggling of billions of pesos worth of shabu.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, said the photo was taken on September 3, just days after two massive drug shipments concealed in magnetic lifters – one believed to be worth ₱11 billion and the other, ₱3.4 billion – were found by authorities in August. The contraband slipped into the country in June.

Gordon added that the photo was shot during the birthday celebration of former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) deputy chief for administration Ismael Fajardo, who was later sacked on September 14 for "[having] knowledge on the shipments." The relief was announced by Aquino himself in a September 27 House probe.

Also in the photo was dismissed Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, who allegedly facilitated the entry of both drug shipments. But his name was first mentioned by former Customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban in a Senate hearing on September 19, two weeks after Fajardo's birthday party.

"Drugs are invading our country pero may pa-party pa sila. Sinadyang palusutin ang droga sa umpisa para sa huli ay sila-sila ang makikinabang," Gordon said in a tweet.

[Translation: "Drugs are invading our country but they manage to party. They deliberately let drugs in so they can benefit from it."]

 

The Senate cited Acierto and Fajardo in contempt on Thursday after they repeatedly skipped legislative hearings. This means they can now be arrested and turned over to Senate custody.

READ: Senate cites in contempt ex-cop, ex-PDEA exec in shabu smuggling probe  

"I put out this picture here, kasi baka akala ninyo tatanga tanga kami rito (because you might think we're stupid here)," Gordon said during the hearing.

He ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to report to him the former officials' whereabouts, describing the situation as "very awkward and very embarrassing."

Gordon slams PDEA's 'incompetence'

Gordon also let out some harsh words against PDEA and its chief, who was a no-show during Thursday's hearing.

"We did PDEA's job, we did Aquino's dirty work when we discovered that the drugs that came to GMA [General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite) actually had drugs but he never followed up. He just made his claim based on the sitting down of dogs," Gordon said.

Aquino earlier said sniffer dogs detected traces of illegal drugs in the emptied containers. Gordon said it was "incompetence on the part of the PDEA for not following through right away."

He also criticized Aquino for making several public statements while investigations were ongoing.

Gordon did not directly reprimand Aquino for the photo, but said, "Yung isa ingay nang ingay pero kausap niya pa rin (One of them is very noisy but still speaks to them)."

He also said he showed the photo to warn newly-appointed Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

"I am already cautioning you and advising you as a friend. Be careful because mapapahaamak lahat kayo diyan (you will all be put in danger there)," Gordon told Guerrero, who attended the probe for the first time since replacing Isidro Lapeña as Customs head. Lapeña was given a Cabinet post following the controversy.

"Customs is a very treacherous, very dangerous and very, very difficult position because you will be tempted every day, every second, every moment and your own people will try to run race around you and will try to get you to accept their demand," Gordon added.