Customs intel chief defends solo raid on P6.4B shabu shipment: It’s a risk but it’s the right thing
Customs intelligence chief Neil Estrella has defended his decision not to tip off the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) about the presence of shipment containing 604 kilograms of shabu after confirming it was an illegal drug.
In a statement, Estrella said he would “rather rot in prison” based on technicalities than sit on the tip that he received about the contraband cargo.
”I took the risk that if the crates of drugs turned out to be true, I would end up burned. I took the chance thinking only of the lives I would save if I were proven right,” he said.
Estrella has drawn flak from lawmakers for raiding a warehouse in Valenzuela City without informing PDEA, as mandated by law.
PDEA Director General Isidro Lapena told the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on August 9 that Estrella’s decision rendered the seizure of the shabu shipment worth P6.4 billion inadmissible in court.
In his defense, Estrella said he was authorized to conduct search and seizure of the cargo under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).
“I do not need a warrant or any other authority to do this because the law itself grants me the power to do so. This means that I can exercise a search and seizure in these places even outside the BOC premises especially because these are undeclared and smuggled objects coming out of our port,” he said.
Estrella said he would’ve been remiss in his duties if he tipped off other entities about the supposed presence of shabu in the shipment that passed through the Customs’ green lane without verifying it first.
He said his team immediately coordinated with PDEA and the National Bureau of Investigation after he confirmed the presence of drugs in the crates that were declared as containing kitchenware. ”We made sure that the integrity of the prohibited materials is secured, so we guarded these properly. There was no contamination whatsoever as nobody has added to, withdrawn from, or changed anything in it,” he said.
At the time of the inventory and turnover of the illegal drugs, Estrella noted that no one from PDEA opposed the details of the operation and the preservation of the integrity of the illegal drugs.
“Although initially there was disagreement as to controlled delivery, the consensus was for the goods to be finally accepted by both agencies for their follow up investigation and action. No one complained,” he said.
Estrella has submitted his courtesy resignation to President Rodrigo Duterte but Malacanang has yet to announce if he has accepted it.