PDEA chief admits failing to follow up on alleged shabu shipment in March

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 28) —  The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief on Wednesday admitted he failed to follow up on a tip that a shabu shipment may have entered the country from Malaysia in March.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said he believes a different cargo slipped past the country months before the controversial P4.3 billion shabu shipment was found in the Manila International Container Port (MICP) in August.

In the joint House committee hearing on shabu smuggling, Aquino told lawmakers he received a text message from former Deputy Director Ismael Fajardo in March about the said shabu shipment.

Aquino said he only recalled Fajardo's text message after the discovery of the four empty magnetic lifters in Cavite in August-which the PDEA believes contained P11 billion worth of shabu.

"When I'm scrolling my cellphone, I was able to read a text message from Director Fajardo dated March 21, 2018," Aquino said.

"Sabi niya doon dumating na yung droga galing Malaysia na nakatago sa machines na ang laman ay shabu," he said.

[Translation: He said the drug shipment from Malaysia has arrived and was hidden in machines.]

"Ang suspected ko bago yung MICT and GMA (General Mariano Alvarez in Cavite), may nakapasok na isa pang shipment that is not related to the MICT kasi kung ito, 'yung text niyang ito related sa MICT, malabo kasi June 27 dumating 'yung MICT," he added.

[Translation:I suspected it arrived before (the shipment) seized from MICT and GMA. It was not related to MICT because the shipment there arrived on June 27.]

Aquino said he ordered Fajardo in March to coordinate with the Bureau of Customs about the suspected shabu shipment, but did not follow through on it.

Aquino also admitted he was clueless about Fajardo's alleged involvement in drug smuggling until September 13, when he received intelligence information about the issue.

Fajardo was among the four people cited in contempt by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee for the alleged links in drug smuggling.

The joint House panels tackling the issue was expected to release a report, which will contain recommendations on who should be charged over the entry of the illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, two persons allegedly involved in the drug shipment cases have surrendered and are now under Senate custody.