August 19, 2017, 5:04 pm
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Warehouse owner, broker detained for contempt

THE Senate yesterday cited in contempt the Chinese owner of a warehouse where P6.4 billion worth of shabu was seized by authorities last May.

Upon the motion of majority leader Vicente Sotto III, Chen Ju Long, whose Filipino name is Richard Tan, was temporarily held at the Senate building for being evasive during the questioning by senators.

The panel, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, resumed its hearing on the shabu shipment from China which was seized at Tan’s Hong Fei Logistics warehouse at Paso de Blas, Valenzuela City.

Also cited in contempt and detained was Manny Li, who served as Tan’s broker on the questioned shipment.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Regional Director Wilkins Villanueva pointed out that the two were not consistent in their statements about a packing list for the shipment.

He said the shipment’s original packing list where the illegal drugs were contained had 14 items when Tan gave it to Li. But when Li gave it to Kenneth Dong, an alleged middleman, only five items were left.

Sotto then moved to hold the two in contempt until they are able to thresh out what really transpired during the transfer of the packing list.

“There’s a motion to hold these two gentlemen in contempt. I hear no objections and I will pass it on to the Senate President for proper detention. So ordered,” Gordon said.

“Upon order by the Senate President, until they tell us the whole story, they shall continue to be held in contempt and be held here or in Pasay Jail, depende what is safe for them,” he added.

Li, also known as Li Guang Feng, is a friend of Kenneth Dong (Dong Yi Shen Xi), a Filipino-Chinese businessman, whom he asked for a broker to help Tan.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Tan and Li should be detained for violation of Section 4 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

During the hearing, Lacson asked Tan who picked up the shipment from China and to whom they were delivered.

Tan maintained he has no idea on the consignee of the shipments. He also denied the whereabouts of three other drug shipments.

Tan said he has too many customers and clients, and he is not hands-on in his warehouse operation. He also decried the decision of the senators to detain him, saying it was unfair to him.

Speaking through an interpreter, Tan said it was unfair for him to be accused of a crime despite his efforts to speak in order to help the government investigate the drug shipment.

But Lacson said, “You have been residing in the Philippines for 20 years. Is that not unfair to the Filipinos especially the youth who will be killed with these tons of illegal drugs coming here from China?”

Gordon explained that the acts of Tan and Li fall under the purview of importation of illegal drugs, regardless of the quantity and purity.

Villanueva contradicted the hardline stance of Tan and Li that they have no knowledge about the drug shipment. He said they both knew of the drug shipment based in the “packing list” that came from China, indicating the presence of the five cylinders.

He said when the packing list was transmitted by Li to Dong, there was no mention of the packing list in the cylinders.

Tan, in his affidavit, said he received a call on May 25 from Wang Zi Dong, head of the inspection department of Xiamen Customs, saying the five insulator machines in the shipment contained illegal drugs.

China Customs also said the two Taiwanese, who were behind the illegal shipment have been caught.

But Gordon repeatedly scolded Tan for giving statements different from his affidavit. He said Tan’s statements in the hearing do not match the contents of his affidavit, such as his conversation with Customs official Rainier Ragos.

Tan said during the hearing that it was his staff who talked to Ragos.

Gordon also scored Tan for fooling the senators into believing that he does not understand Tagalog and English, even though he was heard talking with his counsel in Tagalog.

WITNESS

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the Department of Justice is considering placing Customs broker Mark Taguba, who named several allegedly corrupt officials of the Bureau of Customs, under the government’s Witness Protection Program.

Aguirre said his office would determine the eligibility of Taguba once he received his latter’s application for WPP coverage.

He explained that inclusion in the WPP is different from the legislative immunity granted to Taguba by the House of Representatives.

He said the WPP covers immunity from criminal prosecution arising from being under witness protection.

It will be recalled that during the resumption of the hearing of the House committee on dangerous drugs, Taguba named the BOC officials who allegedly received bribe money in exchange for waiving the processing of his shipments.

The BOC officials identified by Taguba are Director Milo Maestrecampo of the Import Assessment Service, Customs Deputy Commissioner Teddy Raval, Manila International Container Port (MCIP) district collector Vincent Philip Maronilla, and CIIS Director Neil Estrella, who is being blamed by lawmakers along with Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon for bungling the seizure of the shabu shipment in Valenzuela.

WILLING TO RESIGN

President Duterte said he is willing to resign if his son Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, or his other children are proven to be involved in corruption.

The President, during the Philippine Development Forum-Sulong Pilinas 2017 held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong, reiterated his commitment to defeat corruption, stressing that those in government are public servants.

Duterte mentioned the recent hearing in Congress where the name of his son was dragged in alleged briberies in the Bureau of Customs.

Reports said some Customs collectors in Davao City reportedly dropped the name of the younger Duterte, claiming to be collecting money for the Vice Mayor.

“I told you before and I’m telling you now again, if any of my children get involved in corruption, I will immediately resign. That you have my word,” the President said.

Duterte also warned that he would not hesitate to fire and even file charges against those in government who would engage in corruption and even be in cahoots supposedly with his children or other relatives. – With Jocelyn Montemayor
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