THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) lady-lawyer instrumental in confirming that a huge shipment of illegal drugs had managed to slip past the bureau’s scrutiny during the term of Comm. Isidro Lapeña, is back in her original post as chief of the ‘X-Ray Inspection Project’ (XIP).
Atty. Lourdes Mangaoang, previously assigned as deputy collector for passenger service at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), took over the post of XIP head Romeo Guan, based on a Customs Personnel Order (CPO) dated January 4, 2019, approved by Comm. Rey ‘Jagger’ Guerrero.
Pres. Rodrigo Duterte last October tasked Guerrero to replace Lapeña because of the controversy.
On the other hand, Guerrero last December 17, 2018, placed Guan at the XIP vice Atty. Czae de Guzman.
De Guzman and 3 other personnel from the XIP at the Manila International Container Port (MICP), together with at least 37 more personalities were among those charged by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) before the Department of Justice last December 13, 2018, for the non-bailable offence of drug smuggling.
The PDEA maintained the accused were complicit in various roles and capacities for the successful smuggling of the illegal drugs estimated by the agency at more than 1,600 kilos and valued at more than P11 billion, the highest volume of smuggled illegal drugs thus far on record.
The shabu were believed hidden inside four solid-steel ‘magnetic scrap lifters’ and managed to pass thru the XIP scrutiny on their arrival in July 2018. The magnetic lifters were found emptied of their contents about a month later at an abandoned warehouse in Cavite province.
In the congressional hearings that followed, Lapeña and the group of de Guzman maintained the lifters never contained illegal drugs until Mangaoang testified at a Senate hearing in September 2018 and managed to discredit the official position adopted by the bureau.
After her testimony, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair, Sen. Richard Gordon, said he would inform Pres. Duterte that illegal drugs had indeed entered the country anew.
A month later, at another hearing in Congress, Lapeña belatedly acknowledged that the lifters could have contained illegal drugs.
Mangaoang was the first XIP chief when the project was finally implemented during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration; she was sent abroad by the bureau several times over the years that established her credentials as an ‘expert’ in “non-intrusive” (X-Ray) inspection of imported goods.