MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Isidro Lapeña on Wednesday said the failure to coordinate with his agency by Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service head Neil Anthony Estrella on learning of a P6.4-billion drug shipment from China violated procedure.
Estrella, appearing at the second Senate hearing on the attempt to smuggle in the huge amount of crystal meth or “shabu,” admitted he did not immediately coordinate with PDEA because the CIIS was still “validating the information.”
“We were notified about possible drug shipment but we were still validating the information so we did not immediately inform PDEA,” Estrella told Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee.
Estrella explained that around 11 p.m. on May 25, the CIIS proceeded to the warehouse in Valenzuela City of Hong Fei Logistics where the shipment of five insulator machines had been delivered to validate if it did conceal the drugs.
Lapeña insisted that Estrella should have immediately coordinated with PDEA and agreed with Gordon’s description of the CIIS director as “incompetent.”
“All Customs officials violated entrapment protocols for illegal drugs in the warehouse raid,” Gordon said. “We are now a laughingstock over the Customs warehouse raid.”
Estrella said he was informed of the drugs shipment by warehouse owner Richard Chen (also known as Richard Tan), who allowed the CIIS to open the crates.
However, Gordon said they had no authority to do so.
The warehouse owner said he received the shipment around 7:30 a.m. on May 24 and was subsequently informed by Xiamen Customs that the five insulator machines concealed drugs and that the shipper in China had already been arrested.
Gordon threatened to cite Chen in contempt for what the senator said were conflicting statements.
In Chen’s affidavit, he said he was informed of the illegal shipment by Xiamen Customs Police Officer Wang Xi Dong between 5 and 6 p.m. on May 25.
However, he told the Senate hearing he thought the shipment contained printing materials and only found out about the drugs after speaking with Xiamen Customs. (With a report from Ma. Angela Coloma)