SENATE Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, Sen. Dick Gordon, said he was “impressed” by the presentation yesterday of Bureau of Customs collector, Atty. Lourdes Mangaoang, as regards the contentious issue of whether the abandoned four pieces of magnetic scrap lifters found at a warehouse in Cavite last August 9, contained illegal drugs or not.
“She (Mangaoang) was impressive,” Gordon said, leading him to confidently state later on that, indeed, the solid metal containers were used by an international drug syndicate to smuggle into the country, possibly one ton of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) worth over P6.8 billion as maintained by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Mangaoang, currently assigned as the deputy collector for passenger service at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), was invited by the committee to give a presentation of her own investigation on the incident and in her capacity as an “expert” in the field of ‘non-intrusive’ (X-Ray) examination of containerised shipments arriving at the country’s major ports.
The BoC has maintained that the lifters did not contain shabu as alleged by the PDEA. The two agencies’ contrasting position on the incident is among the reasons that prompted the Senate to conduct the inquiry, in aid of legislation.
In her presentation, Mangaoang managed to convince Gordon that contrary to the BoC’s claim that the lifters were “empty,” this was not the case, based on her experience and investigation of the incident.
Prior to being appointed to her present position, Mangaoang was the longest-serving head of the bureau’s ‘X-Ray Inspection Project’ (XIP), dating back to 2007, with the arrival of the country’s first set of X-Ray machines purchased thru a soft-loan from China.
Mangaoang also impressed Gordon thru the number of seminars and trainings she has attended abroad over many years in the field of image analysis and non-intrusive examination of imported cargoes.
Atty. Czae Carrie de Guzman, current XIP chief, and John Mar Morales, XIP operations supervisor, had tried to discredit Mangaoang, in order to support the bureau’s official position, to no avail however, as their respective credentials cannot compare to that of Mangaoang, who was also once the immediate superior of Morales.
Mangaoang had tried to caution Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña not to make a categorical statement that the lifters found in Cavite did not contain shabu and for the Customs chief to first order a deeper investigation before doing so, but she was not allegedly listened to.