MANILA (THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Chinese national, who allegedly facilitated the smuggling of 1.8 billion pesos (S$47.6 million) worth of crystal methamphetamine, was able to fly in and out of the Philippines despite being on the Interpol watch list, Senator Panfilo Lacson has said.
The drugs were seized by the authorities at the port of Manila two months ago.
In a privilege speech, a visibly incensed Mr Lacson said that Xu Zhijian, who also used the name Jacky Co, was in the country to personally monitor the shipment of 276kg of crystal methamphetamine, also known as shabu. The drugs were recovered by agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency at the Manila International Container Terminal on March 22.
Mr Lacson said that Xu, regarded as "among the wanted personalities in China" and a subject of the Interpol's list of suspected criminals, flew to Vietnam via Singapore on April 3, or two weeks after the contraband was seized.
"Even more revolting is, in spite of his alleged involvement in criminal activities here and in China, he had left Manila via Philippine Airlines flight bound for Vietnam," Mr Lacson said.
"One may wonder: How can a person of such character slip through the stringent scrutiny of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel manning our airports, considering that the BI now uses state-of-the-art, biometrics-based system for its computers in all international airports nationwide?" the former Philippine National Police chief said.
Xu, he added, was obviously not in a rush to flee the country and was confident enough to fly out through Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country's primary gateway.
"While we surely celebrate high-impact operations, shenanigans embedded in the rotten system tend to overshadow our progress," Mr Lacson said.
He said that Xu was involved not only in the illegal drug operations, but also in kidnappings.
According to Mr Lacson, the Chinese national was involved in a recent kidnapping for a ransom of 250 million pesos. He said that Xu, who supposedly owned the Bulacan-based Feidatong International Logistics, collected his share of the ransom through "wire transfer and offshore banking".
Mr Lacson also lambasted the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for auctioning off three shipping containers filled with 146kg of shabu worth one billion pesos supposedly to lure the individuals behind the drug shipment.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said the contraband was found stuffed in the shipment of aluminium pallets and tapioca starch that was shipped from Cambodia in March.
Mr Lacson said the information provided to the public by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Customs on the recovery of the shabu shipment was questionable.
"The (Bureau of Customs) averred that it deliberately placed the shipment containing illegal drugs for auction, which was later bidded out and won by Goldwin Commercial," he said. "Let's assume for a while that we are buying their story, is the BOC legally allowed to subject prohibited goods to public sale or auction?"
The senator pointed out that Section 1139 of Republic Act No. 10863, or the Customs Modernisation and Tariff Act, explicitly stated that "public auction is not one of the prescribed means of disposing prohibited goods".
"In this case, prohibited goods, including the shabu... should be destroyed and therefore, should not have been offered for sale in a public auction," he said.
Mr Lacson said he did not believe the claim of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Customs officials that they sent out the shipment using the "controlled delivery" tactic.