19 March 2012

Justice Secretary LEILA M. DE LIMA called for an urgent inter-agency consultative meeting to discuss the government's prevailing policies and standard procedures in handling drug couriers who are caught in the act of trafficking prohibited drugs into or out of the country through our various ports of entry and exit.

The meeting was called pursuant to the directive of His Excellency, President BENIGNO S. AQUINO III, which, in turn, was precipitated by two (2) separate incidents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last 13 March 2011, when the check-in luggage of a Republic of Guinea national and the luggage of two (2) Ghana nationals, all of whom were initially ordered to be deported, were found to contain several
kilograms of high-grade methamphetamine hydrochloride or Shabu.

After the discovery and the confirmation by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that the substance found in their luggage were, indeed, prohibited drugs, the three (3) Mricans were not deported, but were detained pending the filing of appropriate charges against them.

Concerned that there is a possibility that the three (3) drug couriers might have eluded apprehension and prosecution had they been immediately deported, with Philippine law enforcement agencies being unaware of the attempt to introduce illegal drugs into Philippine territory, President Aquino immediately directed the DOJ to clarify the policies and procedures being followed by relevant agencies when faced with such situations.

In compliance with said directive, Secretary De Lima called the top officials of the BI, BOC, PDEA and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to an inter-agency consultative meeting, towards the end of formulating comprehensive standard procedures and action plan that would ensure consistency between the actions of all concerned agencies, and foster closer cooperation and coordination among them, thus maximizing the country's capacity to combat transnational crimes, particularly international drug trafficking.

The meeting, set at 3:00 PM today, March 19, is confirmed to be attended by BI Commissioner RICARDO A. DAVID, JR., BOC Commissioner RUFFY BIAZON, NBI OIC-Director NONNATUS CAESARR. ROJAS, PDEA Director General JOSE S. GUTIERREZ, along with other concerned officials of said agencies.

"There are already existing policies and procedures being followed by the relevant government agencies, but we are not taking any chances that there may be further room for improvement or clarification," said Secretary De Lima. "The President has sent the message that crimes such as these must not go unpunished. It is incumbent upon us, the agencies who form the frontline of defense against transnational crimes, to make sure that we are sending the strongest possible warning to everyone, foreign nationals included, that we will not tolerate any attempt to use our territory as a source, destination or transit point for their criminal operations. They cannot escape prosecution and punishment through deportation. The entire Philippine Criminal Justice System shall first be brought to bear upon them."

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