NBI nabs importer tagged in P6.4-B shabu haul

MANILA The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday nabbed another individual charged in connection with the PHP6.4 billion shipment of illegal drugs.

NBI Director Dante A. Gierran said Eirene Mae Tatad, an alleged consignee of the shipment, was arrested in Iloilo City on the strength of the arrest warrant issued by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46, which is hearing the drug importation case filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Tatad is the second individual arrested by the NBI through the joint effort of the Office of the Director, Assistant Director for Intelligence Service (ADIntS) and the Task Force Against Illegal Drugs (TFAID).

Tatad will be brought to the court, which will then issue a commitment order on where she will be detained.

Gierran said he has already formed teams of NBI operatives to locate the remaining six accused and to implement the Warrants of Arrest in compliance with the order of the court.

Aside from Taguba and Tatad, the arrest warrant includes another co-accused Li Guang Feng alias Manny Li, Dong Yi Shen Xi alias Kenneth Dong, 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.

In a press conference, NBI-TFAID chief Ross Jonathan Galicia said Tatad's brother-in-law convinced her to turn herself in to government agents.

Tatad's brother-in-law also accompanied the NBI in fetching her in Iloilo where she was on vacation.

Tatad denied that she went on hiding, saying she only learned about the arrest warrant on Thursday.

She said she went to Iloilo to "relieve herself of stress" following the dismissal of the case at the Valenzuela City Regional Trial Court Branch 171 for lack of jurisdiction.

The case was originally filed before the Valenzuela RTC but was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, which the DOJ then refiled before the Manila Court.

'Consignee for hire'

Tatad's camp also maintained that she is innocent of the allegations, adding she was only used as dummy by Taguba.

The DOJ found probable cause to indict her 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.

The DOJ said Tatad admitted she had a "consignee for hire" arrangement with Taguba but she denied having knowledge as to any transaction between Taguba and his clients.

"Further, though EMT Trading appears in the records as consignee/importer, she reasons out that such fact does not in any way prove that she conspired to import illegal drugs. Lastly, she claims that it was not substantially proven that the recovered shabu came from the container consigned to EMT," the DOJ said in its resolution on the complaints in connection with the shabu shipment.

Taguba earlier asked the court to keep him detained at the NBI but his appeal was denied by Manila RTC Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa for lack of merit.

Taguba said he will consult his lawyers about turning into state witness in the case involving the PHP6.4-billion shabu shipment that slipped past port inspections in May last year.

"Pag-iisipan namin siguro ng attorney ko ito. Itatanong ko sa kanya," Taguba said.

An accused can only turn into state witness once he has satisfied the requirements under the law such as the absolute necessity for the accused's testimony, lack of direct evidence for the proper prosecution of the case, and that the accused should not appear to be the guiltiest.

The accused's testimony must also be substantially corroborated on its material points and he should not have been convicted of any offense that has attained finality.

The DOJ will have to file the motion to turn an accused into a state witness, subject to the approval of the court.

Taguba said he had no regrets about revealing what he knew about the drug shipment and corruption at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) even as he declined to comment on who should be charged for the shabu mess.

Separate charges

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 Jan. 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 Customs' 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