BOC-XIP head Atty. Des Villamar Mangaoang (right) taking pictures of the seized “shabu” from an abandoned baggage at the NAIA.
TRUE TO HER “CUSTOMS TIGER LADY” moniker, Atty. Ma. Lourdes “Des” Villamar Mangaoang and her alert X-ray Inspection Project (XIP) operatives thwarted an attempt to smuggle an estimated P19.352 million worth of methamphetamine (shabu) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
With the help of the Baggage Assistance Division at the Arrival Operations Division of BOC-NAIA, the entry of the dangerous drugs was nipped in the bud, so to speak, last Wednesday, May 17.
My reliable source said some 2.846 kilos of shabu were discovered inside an abandoned black backpack trolly that had arrived at NAIA Terminal 1 last December 26, 2022, onboard flight ET644 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Based on the “baggage tag” the illicit drugs belong to a certain Sara Tabitya, a Ugandan national who had arrived at NAIA on board flight PR737 last December 24, 2023, but for unknown reasons was “excluded” at the arrival area of Terminal 1.
My source further revealed that the IBR Personnel of NAIA Terminal 1 reported the “suspicious” abandoned baggage to Atty. Des who immediately instructed her men to subject the item to an X-ray machine to determine its contents.
Voila! After a few minutes of X-ray scanning, the image of the illegal substance was seen which prompted XIP head Mangaoang to order a 100% physical examination of the baggage.
It was witnessed by Mangaoang herself, XIP personnel, Enforcement and Security Service (ESS), Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), and Customs Anti-illegal Drugs Task Force (CAIDTF) representatives.
My unimpeachable source whispered that there is still an ongoing investigation pending the formal turnover of the seized drugs to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
It can be recalled that last April, BOC-XIP operatives seized an estimated P3.9 million worth of “kush” or high-grade marijuana from California, United States.
Also last March, they foiled some P400.72-M “shabu” smuggle from West Africa misdeclared as spare parts.
Atty. Des, as she is fondly called by her colleagues, hasn’t wavered in her dedication and professionalism.
In 2018, Atty. Des – who was then a Customs collector for passenger services at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) — was thrust into the limelight when she dared to go against her colleagues in the P11-billion shabu controversy.
I first met her in 2006 when I covered the BOC Port of Cebu when she was the district collector and she impressed me with her brutal frankness, intellect, and decisiveness.
Beauty, brains, and guts, I must say. (ai/mtvn)