Who to believe

Opinion Sideglance

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) had their hands full this week trying to defend their offices against the accusation labelled against them by Senator Panfilo Lacson of being dishonest in connection with the public auction of the illegal drug “shabu”.

In a privilege speech, Senator Lacson pointed out that the strategy of the BOC and PDEA to auction off in public the 146 kilos of suspected ‘shabu’ earlier detected to entrap the real owners of the abandoned consignment is “a case of dishonesty with the intention of misleading the public.”

For their part, the BOC and PDEA explained that their shabu public auction ruse was actually a “controlled delivery” strategy contrived by them as part of their ongoing manhunt for the real owners of the abandoned consignment worth around 1 billion pesos and who they suspect are Philippine based-members of the Chinese Dragon Wu drug syndicate.

Lacson then countered that the nature of the so called “controlled delivery” is different from what the BOC and PDEA understood it to be, clarifying that the procedure is an investigative technique which “targets specific consignees under the supervision of authorized project officers basically for the purpose of gathering evidence against the person/s involved in smuggling-related offenses.”

He further pointed out that the public auction strategy employed by the BOC and PDEA was not a guarantee that the real owners of the abandoned shipment will participate in the auction knowing already that forfeited and seized commodities undergo 100% physical examination prior to being disposed or auctioned off.

So here we have the BOC and the PDEA actively pursuing drug syndicates and employing methods which may or may not be wholly in conformity with the law and apparently adopting the dictum “the end justifies the means”.

Five things stand out in this controversy: One, the drug shipment was abandoned at customs for lacking proper documentation; two, the BOC and the PDEA already knew, upon inspection probably, that the abandoned shipment contained 146 kilos of shabu worth more or less 1 billion pesos; three, the BOC and the PDEA for purposes of and in pursuit of an entrapment operation decided to employ the so called “controlled delivery” via a public auction; four, the BOC and the PDEA in subsequent press statements admitted that their entrapment operation via public auction failed because the winner allegedly did not possess knowledge on the said drug
shipment; and five, the entire 146 kilos of shabu was auctioned off and later on transferred to a warehouse owned by the winning bidder who allegedly, as it turns out, is innocent about illegal drugs.

Putting all of this into perspective, we are inclined to agree with the position of Senator Lacson that what transpired is a case of dishonesty with the intent to mislead the public.

PDEA and BOC already knew that the abandoned shipment contained illegal drugs and the former had previous information from what drug syndicate the contraband originated.

The expedient thing that should have been done was the immediate confiscation of the drug shipment, have it inventoried and then publicly destroyed.

Auctioning illegal drugs to public, hoping that the real owners would bid and win the consignment is simply a stupid move on the part of the BOC and the PDEA and in trying to think that the drug syndicates are as dumb as they believe and want them to be.

A Senate investigation may be called for in order to expose and discover the culpability of those involved in this latest brouhaha involving illegal drugs.