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Tattoos, bank waivers must not derail drug probe

THE Senate Blue Ribbon inquiry on how 600 kilos of shabu valued at R6.4 billion managed to escape detection at the Bureau of Customs has given rise to many side issues and disputes that have actually seized the headlines from the customs inquiry itself.

There is the matter of the tattoo. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV alleged that Davao Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, the President’s son, had a dragon tattoo with coded numbers on his back, identifying him as a member of the “Triad,” an Asian crime syndicate. Asked to bare his back to show the tattoo, the vice mayor declined, claiming his right to privacy. But he said later he would show the tattoo in due time.

Then there is the matter of bank waivers. President Duterte, speaking in Cagayan de Oro, said Senator Trillanes had been criticizing him and his family, accusing him of having hundreds of millions of dollars in his bank accounts. The President said it is Trillanes who has big bank accounts abroad. The senator responded by signing a waiver to allow any bank to disclose his alleged accounts. He, in turn, dared the President to sign his own waiver – which the President declined, saying if the senator wants evidence, he should not get it from him, the President.

And then there is former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon refusing to further answer questions in the Senate inquiry. Senators Trillanes and Panfilo Lacson had accused him of accepting “tara” from smugglers but Faeldon charged that the senators were conducting an investigation “in aid of persecution” while invoking parliamentary immunity.

We can expect nothing further to develop in any of these cases. No official decision will be reached. The principal characters in these side stories are all banking that the general public will support their respective causes. They all hope that they will win the battles for public opinion.

We just hope that in all these maneuvering, in all the public statements and counter-statements, the basic problem is not forgotten – which is how 600,000 grams of shabu made it through customs at a time when the national government is waging a war on drugs.

Thousands of drug pushers and addicts have been killed in this war, many cases involving just a few grams of shabu.

We fear that many more will suffer because of thousands of grams of shabu that may have already passed through Customs and other points along our porous borders. The disputes over tattoos, bank waivers, and Senate “persecution” must not be allowed to derail the effort to stop the entry of shabu into the country, which is at the center of our drug problem.