MANILA, Philippines — An employee of the Bureau of Immigration who went absent without authorized leave tried to help Chinese businessman Richard Tan leave the country after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a criminal case against him in relation to the smuggling of P6.4-billion of shabu last year, which entered the country via the BI’s express lane.
This was the revelation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Thursday during a press briefing in Malacañang, where he discussed the dismissal by the Valenzuela Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Maria Nena Santos of the case against Tan for lack of jurisdiction.
Aguirre has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look for the BI employee who tried to facilitate Tan’s escape.
But, said Aguirre, he did not know if Tan, also known as Richard Chen and Chen Julong, was still in the country.
The DOJ chief said he learned from the BI last week that Tan had tried to leave through one of the provincial airports with the help of this BI employee.
“He was not successful because our senior supervision officer rejected the bribe being offered,” Aguirre said.
“He has no impediment leaving the country, but the only thing that is preventing him from leaving the country without any hitch is the ILBO (immigration lookout bulletin order), which we have issued,” Aguirre said.
“And so we didn’t know if he still persisted in trying to leave the country through some other means or with the help of some people. So we even don’t know if he’s still here. There is no information yet from the Bureau of Immigration that he left the country already, so the presumption is still he is here… I think he has attempted to leave the country twice,” he added.
On November 29 last year, Tan tried to leave the Philippines through China Eastern Air Flight no. 5046 bound for Shanghai Pudong, via the Diosdado Macapagal International Terminal in Pampanga.
The Justice Secretary noted that it is possible that Tan is again already trying to leave the country through other means, like using fake documents.
“Hindi natin alam ‘yon (We don’t know that),” Aguirre said.
Besides Tan, the other respondents in the case filed by a DOJ panel of prosecutors are Li Guang Feng, also known as Manny Li; Dong Yi Shen Xi, also known as Kenneth Dong Yi or Yi Shan Dong; Mark Ruben Taguba II; Eirene Mae Tatad; Teejay Marcellana; Chen I-Min; Jhu Ming Jyun; Chen Rong Huan; and three other unidentified respondents.
Asked what the DOJ prosecutors did differently in filing its motion for reconsideration dated December 27, 2017, asking Judge Santos to reverse her ruling, Aguirre explained that the National Prosecution Service (NPS) argued that it is improper for her to say it has no jurisdiction over the case. This is because the importation of drugs was “a continuing offense,” meaning in any place where one of the elements of the offense happened, the case could be filed.
“So wherever it is caught, as in this case, nahuli ‘yan sa Valenzuela, meron pa ring importation (it was caught in Valenzuela, there is still importation),” Aguirre said.
In its motion for reconsideration, the DOJ said that it was wrong to think that when the shipment of illegal drugs that was placed inside container no. MCLU6001881 and arrived at the Manila International Container Port on May 15, 2017, the crime of importation of dangerous drugs was already consummated.
The shipment was later delivered to a warehouse at Hongfei Warehouse in Valenzuela City.
“(T)he place where the contents of which was discovered, learned and confirmed to be dangerous drugs occurred in Valenzuela City,” the DOJ argued.
In her ruling on December 12, Judge Santos said that the crime of importation of dangerous drugs was already consummated when the drug shipment arrived at the Manila International Container Port.
Aguirre said that a hearing was held on Monday, and the motion for reconsideration was considered submitted for resolution after the respondents were given a five-day period to comment.
The five-day period will end on Saturday, so by Monday, the court may already issue its final ruling on whether to reconsider or affirm its dismissal order, Aguirre added.