Faeldon to show up in Senate but will not attend hearing
Former Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon promised on Friday to show up at the Senate next week but he said he would risk being arrested rather than take part in the hearing on the smuggling of P6.4 billion in illegal drugs.
Faeldon said the hearings on the drug smuggling in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have been used by some lawmakers to malign “innocent persons,” including himself.
“By Monday I will go to the Senate and let myself be arrested, but I will not attend the hearing. My position is I will not participate,” a defiant Faeldon said in an impromptu press conference outside his home in Taytay, Rizal province, on Friday.
“They can carry me if they will arrest me, make me sit there, but I will still not participate.”
“I will gladly stay in jail until I am cleared by [a] competent court,” he said. “Going to jail is better than answering those inquiries.”
Faeldon, who failed to attend three hearings after his last appearance on Aug. 15, said that skipping the inquiries did not mean disrespecting the Senate.
The blue ribbon committee, which opened an investigation of the 605 kilograms of “shabu” (crystal meth) that slipped past the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in May, cited Faeldon for contempt for refusing to attend the hearings.
Committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon on Thursday ordered the Senate sergeant at arms to arrest Faeldon if he did not appear on Monday.
Apparently misunderstanding the order, Senate sergeant at arms officers headed to Faeldon’s home early on Friday to arrest him but were told by Gordon to withdraw after the senator clarified that Faeldon was to be taken into custody only if he fails to show up on Monday.
Wearing a white shirt with the words “TRUTH IS JUSTICE” printed on it, Faeldon stood in front of his house where he spoke with more than a dozen reporters and cameramen, who rushed to Taytay as word spread that he was to be arrested on Friday morning.
Faeldon said that he was questioning the conduct of the Senate hearings in which he was accused by Sen. Panfilo Lacson of accepting a P100-million “pasalubong” when he assumed his post last year.
He was also accused of benefiting from the “tara,” or payola system, set up by smugglers to clear their cargoes from Customs without inspection or payment of the proper fees.
Faeldon denied the accusations and countercharged Lacson, saying it was the senator’s son, Panfilo Jr., who was involved in smuggling by importing cement without paying the correct customs fees.
He said he had signed a waiver to have his bank accounts and those of his siblings and their children examined to show that he and his family had no ill-gotten wealth.
Faeldon said he would open himself up to “any competent court in the world, except the two houses of Congress.”
“I am not being stubborn,” he said. “I mean to clarify the interests and powers of lawmakers—when they deliver privilege speeches and while they put on trial innocent resource persons—against the rights of citizens that are guaranteed in the Constitution.”
He said that while lawmakers had duties to perform, ordinary citizens were protected by the Bill of Rights and should not be subjected to baseless accusations.
He said “innocent persons have been maligned, destroyed and condemned by privilege speeches and some reckless pronouncements” by lawmakers.
The embattled ex-Marine captain said it was “very irresponsible” for a lawmaker to destroy a man’s reputation by simply accusing him of being a thief.
“Many resource persons have been destroyed in the past. It was really traumatic for the families. It was a big blow,” he said. “What is this? Are you just using us for your caprices in life? How about our families?”
Gordon on Friday said Faeldon would be jailed if he refuses to answer questions from the senators during Monday’s hearing.
“That could be anywhere between the Senate, Pasay and Muntinlupa,” Gordon told reporters in a phone interview.
Gordon said Faeldon must participate in the hearing, stressing that the allegations against the resigned BOC commissioner were very serious.
“At this point, he is invited as the commissioner of Customs and they are being investigated for accountability on the shipment of the illegal drugs, so he must answer that and the allegations on the ‘tara’ system,” he said.
But Gordon assured Faeldon that he would be allowed to defend himself.
A preliminary report prepared by his committee so far showed that the former customs chief was only negligent, Gordon said.
“In fairness to Mr. Faeldon, I don’t see anything yet except for his negligence. His only sin is he was way over his head and he was surrounded by pythons in Customs,” said Gordon.
In his speech on Aug. 23, Lacson said Faeldon was swallowed by the system after a year in office and he led officials and employees in receiving payoffs through the longstanding “tara” system.
A quarter of the “welcome gift” was retained as a finder’s fee by a certain Joel Teves, Faeldon’s alleged middleman, Lacson said.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV had said Faeldon was “at the heart” of the controversy but clarified that he was not accusing the latter of being the center of the smuggling activities in the agency.
Trillanes and Faeldon were both members of the Magdalo group of rebel military officers who mounted the short-lived “Oakwood Mutiny” in 2003 against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
They had a falling out during last year’s election campaign when Faeldon supported President Duterte’s candidacy, according to Trillanes.
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