MANILA Customs broker Mark Taguba is now under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after the Manila Regional Trial Court issued a warrant of arrest against him and seven others in connection with the PHP6.4-billion shipment of illegal drugs last year.
NBI Director Dante A. Gierran said operatives of the NBI-Anti Organized and Transnational Crime Division (NBI-AOTCD) served the arrest warrant against Taguba on Wednesday night at the Office of the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms (OSSA) where he is being held under the protective custody of the Senate.
Taguba was given legislative protection by the Senate for testifying in its probe on the multi-billion shabu shipment case.
Taguba is one of the key figures in the PHP6.4 billion shabu shipment that slipped past the Bureau of Customs last year. He revealed before the Senate the supposed passing of grease money among Customs officials.
NBI Deputy Director for Investigative Service Dante de Guzman said Taguba is currently staying in a detention cell inside the NBI compound in Manila.
De Guzman said Taguba has been taken to the Manila RTC by NBI agents to submit a return of the warrant.
Contrary to claims of Taguba, the NBI said there was no voluntary surrender but an arrest.
De Guzman said after they received the copy of the arrest warrant from the court, they immediately coordinated to the Senate Sergeat-at-arms for Taguba's turnover.
Taguba is facing charges for drug importation filed by the Department of Justice before the Manila RTC Branch 46.
Aside from Taguba, the arrest warrant includes his co-accused Li Guang Feng alias Manny Li, Dong Yi Shen Xi alias Kenneth Dong, Eirene Mae Tatad, Teejay Marcellana, Chen I-Min, Jhu Ming Jhyun and Chen Rong Juan.
Chen Ju Long or Richard Tan/Chen was not included in the arrest order because of a pending motion to dismiss.
No bail was recommended for the accused's temporary liberty.
The NBI said they have already formed several tracking teams to locate the seven others subject of the arrest warrant.
"We will have to account for the others named in the warrant. Agents of the NBI in different parts of the country are trying to locate others stated in the warrant," NBI Spokesman Ferdinand Lavin said.
The case was originally filed before the Valenzuela Regional Trial Court but was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
The DOJ then refiled the case before the Manila Court.
The DOJ found probable cause to indict for importation of dangerous drugs under Section 4, in relation to Section 26 (a) of Republic Act No. 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
In finding probable cause against the above-named respondents for the importation of 602 kilograms of shabu, the panel determined that the combination of the individual participation of each of the respondents, either as shipper, consolidator, facilitator, broker, financier, consignee, or warehouse lessee - reveals a pattern of overt acts indicative of conspiracy to import into the country the dangerous drugs.
The panel recommended the filing of the corresponding criminal information for importation of dangerous drugs against the above named respondents with no bail recommended.
Under the case, the nine defendants are accused of having conspired in bringing into the country 602.279 kilograms of methamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu.
Taguba and his co-accused are also facing separate criminal charges before the Valenzuela Regional Trial Court also in connection with the shabu shipment.
On January 24, 2018 the justice department filed charges of violation of Section 5, in relation to Section 26 (a) of R.A. 9165 (Transportation and Delivery of Dangerous Drugs) before the Valenzuela RTC.
The case stemmed from the Bureau of Customs' (BOC) discovery of the shabu shipment at the Hong Fei Logistics warehouse in Valenzuela City on May 26, 2017 based on a tip from the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of the China Customs.
The shabu shipment managed to enter the country through the BOC after being declared as kitchenware, footwear and moldings. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency