MANILA, Philippines – Two different versions of the same incident by only one person makes him what? A liar or just absent-minded?
Due to his alleged conflicting statements about the shipment of P6.4 billion worth of shabu that found its way into the country through the Bureau of Customs (BOC)’ express lane, Filipino-Chinese businessman Chen Ju Long, known in the Philippines as Richard Tan, was censured and later detained by lawmakers after a hearing by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Wednesday.
Sen. Richard Gordon, committee chair, moved to have Chen cited in contempt after he said during the Senate inquiry that he thought that the cargo’s contents were printing materials, countering his own affidavit wherein he said that on May 25, 2017, between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., Wang Xi Dong of the Xiamen Customs Police told him via phone call that the shipment containing five cylinder-shaped insulator machines had illegal drugs inside them.
Chen, general manager of Hong Fei Logistics, the firm that transported the 604 kilos of shabu to the Philippines from China, vehemently denied that he was involved in narcotics trade, saying he had informed the BOC about the illegal shipment. The company occupies a warehouse in Valenzuela City where the illegal drug shipment was seized last May.
“Why am I being charged? I should not have informed the [BOC] about it,” Chen said through a translator during the inquiry.
Claims he doesn’t understand Tagalog but was heard talking with lawyer in Tagalog
But senators questioned his credibility. Gordon scolded Chen for allegedly fooling lawmakers as he was claiming that he did not understand Tagalog despite being heard during the hearing talking to his lawyer in the local language.
“Paano kayo mag-usap? Niloloko n’yo ako [How do you talk to each other? You’re fooling me]. Let the records show that he is talking to his counsel in Tagalog…You cannot fool us here,” said Gordon.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson was also irked by Chen. The lawmaker said the Chinese national, who according to his affidavit, is a member of the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, has been staying in the country for the last two decades and allegedly had deep ties within the Philippine government.
“Niloloko mo kami [You are fooling us). You’ve been very evasive. You’ve been here for 20 years. Ilan na ang napapatay [How many have been killed)? And then tons of shabu are coming from China through your facilitation,” said Lacson.
Another Fil-Chinese, Manny Li, was also cited in contempt during the hearing and later detained at the Upper Chamber, after lawmakers accused him of concealing the five cylinders containing shabu by altering the cargo’s packing list.
The original list prepared by Hong Fei included the information about the cylinders that was written in Chinese and was transmitted to Li before it was transported to the Philippines.
Li translated the list from Chinese to English and in the process removed the information about the cylinders before it was passed on to Filipino custom brokers.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-National Capital Region Director Wilkins Villanueva said what Li did was highly irregular because when the BOC received the cargo, the tampered list no longer contained the cylinders as the written items were already changed to moulders.
“No’ng nakita namin ang ipinadala ng China na packing list, nakalagay doon five cylinders. So may five cylinders talagang ibinigay ang Hong Fei kay Manny Li. Pagbigay ni Manny Li kay Kenneth Dong (the middleman in the Philippines), wala na ‘yong five cranes, naging moulder na,” Villanue told media after the Senate inquiry.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Escudero criticized the BOC for allegedly being “too careful” and “too kind” in dealing with those linked to the drug shipment as the Philippine National Police was being aggressive in dealing with small-time drug pushers.
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