Senate holds Chinese businessmen in contempt over P6.4-B drug probe

Posted on August 10, 2017

CHINESE BUSINESSMEN Richard Tan and Manny Li were held in contempt by the Senate on Wednesday during its second hearing on the P6.4- billion worth of illegal drug shabu (methamphetamine) seized by the Bureau of Customs (BoC).

Probe of shabu shipment continues: Trader Richard Tan, who owns Hong Fei Logistics where 604 kilograms of shabu were seized by government agents last May 26, takes his oath during the hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Richard Gordon on Aug. 9. -- PRIB
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee found inconsistencies in the statements of Mr. Tan, also known as Mr. Chen in Chinese, particularly with regards to the packing list that was sent from China to the Philippines.

Mr. Tan heads Hong Fei Logistics, which was involved in the shipment of the contraband that was seized in his warehouse last May 26.

Mr. Li, meanwhile, was the alleged middleman for the shipment.

According to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Regional Director Wilkins M. Villanueva, it was apparent that the list specifying the shipment containing the illegal drugs was changed when it was submitted to the BoC.

Mr. Tan, who doesn’t speak English or Filipino, said that he doesn’t understand why he was being cited for contempt when, in fact, he has stepped forward to prove his innocence. He added that he even received a congratulatory letter from China for cooperating with the seizure of the illegal drugs. He also pointed out that the Chinese Customs had already apprehended the people behind the illegal shipment.

Mr. Tan, who has been doing business in the Philippines for 20 years based on his affidavit, added that it is unfair that he is being labelled as a “drug pusher” when he has been cooperating.

Asked about his connection to BoC Commissioner Nicanor A. Faeldon and Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Neil Estrella, Mr. Chen said that he only met them during the seizure of drugs at his warehouse.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson urged Mr. Chen to prove himself “the least guilty” if he wants to be considered as a state witness.

The Senate investigation on the issue resumes on Aug. 15-30.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DoJ) is considering turning Customs broker Mark Ruben G. Taguba into a state witness for the case.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II, in an ambush interview yesterday, said that he “believes” Mr. Taguba can be admitted under the DoJ’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).

“If he’s going to apply as a witness under the WPP then we have to consider,” Mr. Aguirre said, adding: “I believe na may basis siya to apply. (I believe that he has basis to apply.)”

Mr. Taguba is currently among the resource persons invited by both the Senate and the House of Representatives in their respective probe on the shabu shipment.

In the House hearing, Mr. Taguba claimed that five major officials of the BoC are taking bribes to facilitate his shipments, namely: Mr. Estrella of the CIIS, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Group Teddy Raval, Manila International Container Port (MICP) District Collector Vincent Philip Maronilla, MICP-CIIS District Intelligence Officer Teodoro Sagaral, and Import Assessment Service Director Milo Maestrecampo. -- Mario M. Banzon and Kristine Joy V. Patag