“What a Mess: A Dumping Ground of Garbage and Drugs

May 29, 2019 
Privilege Speech by: Senator Panfilo M. Lacson

We spend a great deal of taxpayers’ money for an automated processing system, x-ray scanners, even for brokers’ accreditation, not to mention fairly high salaries for seasoned military men at the helm of the Bureau of Customs. But at the end of the day – all our efforts be damned — we are still one hell of a mess.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I rise before you on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

To say that our country is treated like trash appears to be true, as in literally, amid news reports of tons of waste being illegally shipped into our lands, no thanks to local and foreign smugglers, unscrupulous Customs brokers and corrupt Customs officials.

These massive shipments of toxic goods have taken many forms — from imported hazardous garbage to billions of pesos’ worth of smuggled illegal drugs.

In the face of all these, the Bureau of Customs appears to be constantly blindsided and remiss in its mandate as the “gatekeeper of our borders.”

Mr. President, these appalling stories cannot be narrated without disgust and revulsion. But they must be told.

Nearly six years ago, from mid-2013 to 2014, our national pride took a severe blow when a total of 103 containers of Canadian garbage — from plastic bottles to household waste to used adult diapers — were illegally shipped into our lands.

Falsely labeled as plastics for recycling, the discovered shipments were later classified as hazardous wastes.

Luckily for us, we are about to bid this rotting problem goodbye. For a start, the Canadian trash is sailing back to Canada. We will await further developments on future garbage return expeditions to Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong and God knows where else. Nevertheless, we take our hats off to the strong political will and grim determination of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs for standing their ground on this issue. Tomorrow, May 30, 69 container vans will be loaded with over 1,000 tons of garbage to be shipped back to Ottawa, Canada.

Sad but true, there is already a bandwagon of nations that designate our country as the official dumpsite of Southeast Asia.

In July and October of 2018, South Korea exported five tons of garbage in 51 containers consigned by Verde Soko Philippines Industrial.

Early this year, 25 tons of electronic and residual waste from Hong Kong, misdeclared as assorted electronic accessories, also arrived at the Mindanao International Container Terminal. The cargo was reportedly a “trial shipment” by Hin Yuen Tech. Env. Ltd. If the said shipment successfully passed our ports, 70 more containers of waste await to be dumped in our borders.

Just last week, Australia shipped seven container vans of shredded municipal waste in our country.

Worse, the shipment’s broker was the same company that handled the importation from South Korea.

Unfortunately for us, shipments of foreign refuse are not the only “garbage” that continue to permeate and pollute our country.

Illegal drugs, the worst kind of toxic goods that reek of evil and leave pernicious effects on at least a million souls in our society today, have also found their way into this benighted land.

Ang nakaka-stress pa, Mr. President, makailang ulit nang pinalitan ang Commissioner ng Customs pero hindi pa rin masawata ang pagpasok ng iligal na droga.

Imbes na magpataasan sila ng koleksyon ng buwis, tila naging padamihan sila ng mga drogang pumapasok sa mga aduana ng bansa.

We have seen ingenious schemes of illegal drugs smuggling in the recent three leaderships of the Bureau of Customs — from the metal cylinders during the time of Mr. Nicanor Faeldon to the magnetic lifters of General Isidro Lapeña to the most recent teabags and tapioca starch of incumbent Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

Truly, drug traffickers and their cohorts in the government still continue to evolve into becoming the “masters of their own crap.”

Mr. President, sa mahabang serye ng pagdinig sa isyu ng P6.4 billion na halaga ng shabu na nasakote sa Valenzuela City noong Mayo 2017, tayo ay namulat sa mga karakter ng drug smuggling tulad ng “consignees-for-hire,” Filipino-Chinese middlemen, mga tuso at konektadong Customs brokers, at mga walang kabusugan sa pera na tiwaling Customs officials.

Sa puntong ito, ating balikan ang ilan sa mga malalaking shipment ng iligal na droga na natimbog ng ating awtoridad sa nakalipas na mga buwan.

Kung gaano kalaki ang mga nakalusot, ang milyong mga adik na ang bahalang sumagot.

On August 7, 2018, 500 kilograms of shabu worth P4 billion were discovered in the abandoned VECABA Shipment, consigned to one Vedasto Cabral Baraquel Trading at the Manila International Container Port.

Three days later, four magnetic lifters consigned to SMYD Shipment, which allegedly concealed high-grade shabu estimated by authorities at P6.8 billion were found, albeit empty at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite.

In February of this year, the PDEA along with other government agencies, confiscated billions worth of illegal substances in two separate raids in the province of Cavite. Nakumpiska ang 36 kilo ng shabu na nagkakahalagang P244.8 milyon sa Dasmarinas, samantalang 274 kilograms o P1.9 bilyon naman ng shabu ang nasabat sa operasyon sa Tanza, Cavite.

Bureau of Customs and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency also discovered around 13.1 kilograms of shabu valued at P90 million in a shipment concealed as car mufflers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in February of 2019. Customs officials reported that the illegal shipment came from West Covina, California in the USA, which were declared as car parts, and was under an unnamed consignee.

Amid all these operations, illegal drugs still find its way into our doorsteps — and quite literally. Last March 19, PDEA operatives seized millions of pesos worth of illegal drugs packed in tins of Chinese biscuits inside a house at Ayala Alabang Village and at the parking lot of Alabang Town Center totaling 166 kilos of shabu worth P1.13 billion. Three Chinese suspects and one Filipino contact allegedly involved in the international drug syndicate tagged as the Golden Triangle were also arrested.

Hindi tulad ng mga kapos-palad na naka-puruntong at tsinelas sa mga sulok-sulok ng eskinita na madalas nating makita sa telebisyon na naka timbuwang at walang buhay, dahil nanlaban daw umano sabi ni Kabo, buhay na buhay ang mga Intsik na tila nag-iisip ng malalim kung magkano ang gagastusin sa mga abugadong may koneksyon sa piskal o huwes na magpapalaya sa kanila.

Mr. President, at this point, the people want to know the personalities involved in the well-entrenched, sophisticated operations of drug syndicates.

Today, this representation wants to share a good lead.

On March 22, a shipment with 276 kilos of suspected shabu with street value of around P1.8 billion was seized at the Manila International Container Port. The BOC reported that the illegal drugs were wrapped in drinking tea packaging and were found inside a 40-foot container declared as plastic resin. This shipment was under the consignee identified as Wealth Lotus Empire Corp.

We have it on good information that the main person responsible for this shipment is a Chinese national named Zhijian Xu alias “Jacky Co,” who was born in Fujian, China. Jacky Co, subject to ongoing verification by our local law enforcement agencies with their Southeast Asian counterparts, is said to be on the Interpol watch list and among the wanted personalities in China.

Hindi lamang siya kasangkot sa kalakalan ng iligal na droga, bahagi rin siya ng isang malaking kidnapping syndicate dito sa Pilipinas na kumukubra ng ransom sa pamamagitan ng wire transfer at offshore banking. Ang huling kidnapping na kinasangkutan ni Jacky Co ay nagkakahalaga ng P250 million, Mr. President. Sa mga nakalap naming dokumento, siya ay may-ari ng Feidatong International Logistics Company na nakabase sa Bulacan.

But what is interesting is that during the time of the said shipment, Jacky Co was in the country monitoring. Even revolting is, in spite of his alleged involvement in criminal activities here and in China, he had left Manila via Philippine Airlines flight bound for Vietnam passing through Singapore on April 3, 2019, few days after the seizure of his shipment of drugs.

Hindi na nga nagmadaling tumakas, kampante pang lumipad mula sa NAIA.

One may wonder: how can a person of such character slip the stringent scrutiny of the Bureau of Immigration personnel manning our airports considering that the BID now uses “state-of-the-art, biometrics-based system for its computers in all international airports nationwide”?

While we surely celebrate high impact operations, shenanigans embedded in the rotten system tend to overshadow our progress.

Noong nakaraang linggo naman, huli sa operasyon ng mga awtoridad ang 146 na kilo ng shabu na nakatago sa 114 na bags ng aluminum pallets at tapioca starch na naka-imbak sa Goldwin Commercial warehouse sa Barangay Santolan sa Malabon. Ayon sa PDEA, malaki ang posibilidad na konektado ang iligal na kargamentong nagmula sa Cambodia sa international syndicate na Golden Triangle.

Mr. President, despite the authorities’ seizure of P1 billion worth of shabu in Malabon last week, some details presented to the public do not seem to add up. Ang press release ng Bureau of Customs as posted in their Facebook page ay ganito:

“The shipment was forfeited in favor of the government last March 1, 2019 after the consignee failed to file an import entry with Customs.

The Customs and PDEA jointly inspected the three containers and were able to verify that the shipment indeed contain[ed] illegal drugs. But instead of immediately seizing the illegal shipment, they decided to allow the shipment to be auctioned off. By doing so, they were hoping to draw out possible members of the drug syndicates who may be interested in bidding on the drug shipment.”

The Bureau averred that it deliberately placed the shipment containing illegal drugs for auction, which was later bidded out and won by Goldwin Commercial.

Let’s assume for a while that we are buying their story, is the BOC legally allowed to subject prohibited goods to public sale or auction?

Ating bisitahin ang mga probisyon sa Customs Modernization and Tariff Act o R.A. 10863.

Section 1139 of the CMTA provides the list of goods in Customs custody that shall be subject to disposition. It specifically excluded prohibited goods:

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(c) Forfeited goods, other than prohibited, restricted and regulated goods; after liability have been established by the proper administrative or judicial proceedings in conformity with the provisions of this Act;

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Further, Mr. President, pursuant to Section 1146 of the CMTA, public auction is NOT one of the prescribed means of disposing prohibited goods.

In this case, prohibited goods, including the shabu contained in 114 bags inside the aluminum pallets with tapioca starch, as provided in Section 1146 of this Act, should be destroyed, and therefore should not have been offered for sale in a public auction.

Further still, and this is another issue that PDEA and BOC have to clarify: is it not completely different from the very nature of what we call “Controlled Delivery” as they had claimed?

“Controlled delivery” my foot!

What we know from experience and knowledge of the procedure in “Controlled Delivery” is that this investigative technique 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.

Again, assuming that we believe their “Controlled Delivery” story, which we of course do not, did Customs and PDEA officials really expect the owners of this shipment to actually participate in the said public auction knowing fully well that forfeited and seized commodities undergo 100-percent physical examination prior to disposition?

Kahit paikut-ikutin nila ang kwento, napakalabo pa rin ng bersyon ng Bureau of Customs at PDEA ukol sa mga pangyayari.

Let me give you another story — one that is more realistic, and convincing because it is the real story behind this shipment.

To prove my point, let me quote a portion in a report signed by PDEA Regional Director III Joel B. Plaza dated March 11, 2019, 10 days after the forfeiture in favor of the government of the shipment and 11 days before its supposed seizure in the Malabon warehouse:

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“…the specimens submitted do not contain any dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals.”

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Sa katunayan, agad na ipinasubasta (auction) ang nasabing kargamento dahilan sa ito ay madaling nabubulok o “perishable by nature.”

On May 22, the subject shipment was released to the winning bidder and delivered to Goldwin Commercial’s warehouse at #89F Santos Street, Santolan, Malabon City.

During the cleaning/washing of the commodity, one of the aluminum pallets accidentally fell off, which exposed an aluminum foil containing the illegal drugs. Immediately thereafter, the winning bidder reported the incident to the Bureau of Customs.

Mr. President, we put the BOC and PDEA on notice that we were not born yesterday.

It does not take much to figure out the holes in the plot that some not-so-smart characters in these agencies tried to fabricate but failed miserably. Simply put, this is a case of dishonesty with the intention of misleading the public.

Mr. President, as if adding insult to injury, the BOC faces another question in leadership and management with the appointment of relieved MICP Collector Vener Baquiran to an even higher post as Customs Deputy Commissioner.

Remember my “tara” expose and the mysterious case of magnetic lifters?

Not so long ago, Atty. Baquiran was one of the identified bagmen in the long list of BOC personnel receiving payola/tara from big players inside the Bureau, which this representation had exposed in 2017.

Subsequently, as former MICP Collector, his name surfaced again in congressional inquiries and subjected to probe by both the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice, which the latter even recommended the filing of criminal charges against him, after he failed to prevent massive drug shipments concealed in magnetic lifters from entering into MICP in June 2018.

Despite my expose on the massive corruption inside the Bureau of Customs, much to my dismay, I was informed just recently that the Tara System has not been, by any chance, suppressed. Worse, for many Customs officials, it remains business-as-usual.

Let me emphasize one point, Mr. President. As per my sources inside the BOC as well as those regularly transacting business with the agency, Customs Commissioner, retired CSAFP General Rey Leonardo Guerrero has remained untainted by corruption, at least as of this date and as far as this representation is concerned.

But while he has reportedly managed to maintain his integrity intact, his leadership is challenged by his apparent failure to exact the same level of honesty and integrity from his subordinates, which true and real leadership is all about.

My sources confirm that the following departments/sections in the Bureau of Customs continue to take their “Tara” per container supposedly distributed as follows: for the Office of the Commissioner, an average of P5,000 per container plus 10% of the collections of each section/office directly under OCOM; P3,000 for Intelligence Group; P1,000 to P2,000 for the Enforcement Group; P3,000 for the Risk Management Office; and P2,000 to P3,000 for the Import and Assessment Service.

Kung kani-kanino napupunta ang nasabing mga “tara” for his office or the Office of the Commissioner, I will leave it to Gen Guerrero to investigate and find out.

Moving on, the MICP and POM district offices receive P3,000 per container. Each container with alert order may be charged as high as P50,000. Holy cow!

With the average of 2,000 and 7,000 containers transacted for release every week at both the Port of Manila and MICP, imagine how much “tara” goes to the pockets of these insatiably corrupt Customs officials.

May I ask, how can the Bureau thoroughly and sincerely address the country’s drug problem if instead of punishing the corrupt or incompetent, or both, this administration is even rewarding these people with other positions in government? Sadly, what they cannot completely throw away, they tend to recycle. This time, at the expense of BOC’s credibility and to the detriment of the public.

When we tolerate corruption and its perpetrators in the institution, reward incompetence rather than weed out the roots that breed it; the public will start to believe it is a given and Customs officials will start to believe it is a routine.

This is yet another standing challenge to Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero:

To uphold your strong integrity and moral principles is a test of your character. The test of your leadership, on the other hand, is how your integrity and principles resound in the halls of your office and influence the actions and behavior of your subalterns. To fail in one is to fail in both.

The Filipino people demand much from your leadership. While I continue to vouch for your character as it remains unquestionable, some of your people are afflicted with severely debilitated credibility, which may eventually reflect on you and the institution that you lead and represent.

Mr. President, to call out our authorities to “secure our borders” against various wastes of other nations, signify:

“NO” to the derogation of our national dignity; 
“NO” to the dishonor of our sovereignty; and 
“NO” to the desecration of our national identity.

In closing, I would like to give credence to the words of Austrian sociologist and historian Ludwig von Mises, and I quote:

“There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men.”

Thank you, Mr. President.

Source: https://www.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2019/0529_lacson1.asp

https://www.senate.gov.ph/senators/sen_bio/lacson_bio.asp