A Cebu judge yesterday convicted nine foreigners and two Filipinos for operating a secret shabu laboratory in Mandaue City that was raided in 2004.
Regional Trial Court Judge Marilyn Lagura Yap sentenced the 11 men to life imprisonment and ordered them to pay a fine of P10 million each.
The financier of the laboratory, Chinese national Calvin de Jesus Tan, immediately said he would contest the ruling even as Cebu officials hailed the decision as a major victory for the battle against illegal drugs.
The court ordered the release of British national Hung Chin Chang, also known as Simon Lao, whose confession nailed his cohorts.
He was acquitted after giving testimony as a state witness.
The judge said the Cap R US warehouse in Mandaue City was “in fact a huge clandestine shabu laboratory” with international operations.
For the Philippines to counter the global threat of drug trafficking, it “needs the cooperation of other countries,” she said.
Judge Yap, whose decision in Cebu’s “mega shabu laboratory” case, was awaited for eight years, said the Philippine government must seek help from the foreign governments of the accused and share information and tactics to pursue the investigation of the foreigners caught in this case—the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
The 11 men were found guilty of conniving to manufacture 675 kilograms of shabu worth P1.3 billion in a warehouse in barangay Umapad, Mandaue City, on Sept. 24, 2004.
The rented warehouse along the national highway was used to “cook” or actually produce shabu. Two other bodegas in Mandaue City were used for other stages of the drug ring.
Agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) raided what was then considered one of the biggest shabu laboratories in the country.
Found guilty were Chinese nationals Calvin de Jesus Tan, Bao Xiafu, Tao Fei and Liu Bo, and Joseph Yu; Taiwanese Wu Tyao Yi and Lin Li Ku; Malaysian nationals Siew Kin Weng and Liew Kam Song; Filipinos Allan Yap Garcia and Joseph Lopez.
They were sentenced to life imprisonment, which under Philippine law runs for 20 to 40 years.
The foreign nationals will be deported after serving prison time.
All 12 accused were acquitted on drug charges in relation to another shabu laboratory found in barangay Paknaan, Mandaue City.
Two Cebuano owners of the rented Caps R Us warehouse, Andy Ng and his business partner Richard Ong, were earlier cleared of liability.
In her 277-page ruling, the judge put much weight on Lao’s confession and the physical evidence of large supplies of chemicals and equipment in the warehouse in Mandaue.
The judge said physical evidence “speaks more eloquently than a hundred witnesses.”
Lao said he was hired to assemble the shabu laboratory in Mandaue and showed he was privy to Tan’s plans to lease warehouses to store the ingredients of shabu, produce the drug, then dry and dispatch it for sale.
The court said Tan “provided the capital in every stage of the operation” as the financier and that Lao had “direct, personal and positive declaration of the roles of the other accused.”
Three warehouses were rented by Tan’s group. The warehouse in Umapad was the production site.
Another warehouse in barangay Paknaan was used as “drying area of shabu” while the third warehouse in barangay Looc was a “packaging and storage area for shabu” before it is sold in the market.
Lao, a former Hong Kong merchandiser, was introduced to Tan in 2002 in Makati.
Tan was looking for someone to be the general manager of his “export business” in the Philippines and said he would invest HK $2 million or about P15 million.
Tan wanted a Chinese national because he didn’t trust Filipinos.
Lao was made his contact person in Cebu and was tasked to procure large supplies of acetone, hydrogen gas and palladium chloride, ingredients for “cooking” shabu.
The court said the other accused who were arrested in the premises connived to manufacture illegal drugs in Mandaue.
Evidence in a drug case has to be accounted for from the time of search and seizure to inventory, examination and safekeeping and identification in court, said the judge.
Tan denied he was a shabu financier and said he last visited Cebu in 2003.
But the court said his presence wasn’t needed in Mandaue City to pay for supplies, install the machines or start the actual drug production. / By Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter