MANILA – How can the government file drug charges against the Filipino parties involved in the shipment of what turned out to be shabu in printers’ cylinders worth P6.4 billion, and omit the source of the shipment, a Chinese woman named Tong Yen Ping?
Lawyers for Customs operators Mark Taguba and Teejay Marcellana raised this question at the start of the Department of Justice preliminary investigation on the alleged shabu shipment from China. The lawyer, Raymund Fortun, also raised an issue that some lawmakers had feared could damage the government cause early on: the chain of custody of the supposed drugs had been broken, leaving the government with possibly tainted evidence.
“I just raised [the question] to the panel. In this case, the person whom the drugs came from, a certain Tong Yen Ping. She is not a part of the complaint.”
The Tong Yen Ping whom Fortun referred to is listed as the shipper of the alleged drugs from China. Her name was earlier mentioned in the Senate blue ribbon hearings on corruption at the Bureau of Customs and why the shabu breezed through the BOC’s Green Lane.
Despite her name being mentioned, the NBI did not include Tong Yen Ping in the drug trafficking complaint against the group led by Taguba, who has been providing Senate probers information on the “Tara” or payola system at Customs, and how parties “enrolled” in the system can have clearance for their shipments facilitated.
“Nagtataka ako, paano na mapagdidikit ng DOJ ang pagsasampa ng kaso sa mga taong dapat kasuhan, kung ang taong nagpadala ng droga ay wala sa kaso? Kaya tinanong ko po kung ito ay administrative lapse lamang ng NBI o accommodation para sa China na ang dapat kasuhan ay kinakasuhan [I was puzzled as to how the DOJ could draw up the list of people it charged, and yet omit the name of the sender of the drugs. I wanted to know if this was an administrative lapse on NBI’s part, or an accommodation to China],” said Fortun.
According to DOJ, they are basing their actions in the preliminary investigation solely on what is contained in the complaint, in this case, NBI’s.
Fortun challenged the administration to run after the big fish in its fight against illegal drugs.
“Kung gusto natin mahinto ang droga, habulin natin ang big fish. Yung malalaking tao [If we want to stop drugs, run after the big fish]. We are talking 6.4 [billion pesos] but we are not charging the right people. ‘Di naman nila nakita ang laman [They didn’t even see the contents of the shipment].”
Taguba and Marcellana skipped the DOJ hearing.
Fortun is confident the complaint will be dismissed because, he said, Customs did not follow the strict process for handling suspect shipment and thus ended up with tainted evidence.
‘Yun pong mga droga [The drugs seized] are no longer admissible evidence — both admitted by the PDEA, NBI and Customs. [In our view] there is no complaint because di maaaring magkaroon ng probable cause kung walang ebidensya [one cannot establish probable cause if there is no evidence].”
Meanwhile, alleged middleman Kenneth Dong and the Philippine consignee Eirene Tatad of EMT Trading submitted their counter-affidavits to DOJ.
Taguba, Marcellana and Chinese businessman Richard Tan asked for more time to submit their defense.
The DOJ has set the next hearing for September 25.