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NBI files graft raps vs. Lapeña over multi-billion shabu smuggling

Former Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña now faces charges for graft and administrative offenses in connection with the alleged shabu smuggling using magnetic lifters discovered in Manila and Cavite last year.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) named Lapeña as a respondent in a complaint for dereliction of duty, violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and grave misconduct filed before the Department of Justice on Thursday.

The NBI said Lapeña, who exercised Customs powers at the time, should be charged for failing to prosecute the shippers or consignees of the magnetic lifters discovered at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) and in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite in August 2018. 

The two magnetic lifters found at the MICP contained 355 kilograms of shabu worth P2.4 billion. The lifters had been declared as carrying door frames.

And while they were found empty, the four lifters discovered in Cavite are believed to have contained 1,618 kilos, or worth P11 billion, of the illegal drug.

"His deliberate intent to favor the violator was manifested by the fact that, in spite the violators were identified by Commissioner Lapeña, he did not prosecute or cause the prosecution of the violators," the NBI said.

The NBI complaint at the DOJ is the first to tag Lapeña in connection with the six magnetic lifters. The first two complaints over the same shipments, filed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency last year, did not include Lapeña as a respondent.

The new complaint also accused more than 40 others — including former Customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban, who is now under witness protection — of conspiracy to import illegal drugs, graft, and grave misconduct.

Former Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto, ex-PDEA deputy director general for administration Ismael Gonzales Fajardo Jr., and then Customs deputy commissioner Ricardo Quinto, among many others, were also named as respondents.

President Rodrigo Duterte transferred Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in October 2018, amid the controversy around the  massive drug smuggling. Retired Armed Forces chief of staff Rey Leonardo Guerrero now heads the Bureau of Customs.

The DOJ expects to receive the counter-affidavits of the respondents to the first two complaints at a hearing on January 30. —KBK, GMA News