DOJ clearing of Faeldon irks Senators
How did 600 kilos of “shabu” (crystal meth) from China get past the Bureau of Customs if the importers did not collude with BOC insiders?
This was the question of senators who were one in their disbelief that the entry into the country in May of P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China did not involve BOC officials.
The senators expressed disgust on Thursday over the dismissal by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the drug charges against several BOC officials led by former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.
“It is unimaginable if not impossible that the drug shipment would reach its destination in Valenzuela without the participation and complicity of the BOC [officials] involved,” said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who actively participated in the Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry into the shabu smuggling.
Lacson said simple logic “will tell us that at the very least those [on] whose watch the drug shipment should be held criminally liable as well.”
He said he hoped Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre would make an automatic review of the case decided upon by a DOJ panel on Wednesday.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said he would ask Aguirre to explain to the Senate the DOJ panel’s decision, as he noted that those charged by the DOJ were all private individuals.
“How could that happen when that was 600 kilos (of shabu). It’s hard to believe that there was no cooperation from the inside,” Pimentel told reporters.
Pimentel, who is a lawyer, said that in criminal cases, prosecutors usually have a theory on what happened in an incident and they would back this up with evidence in court.
“So we will ask them what is their theory that the 600 kilos of shabu was able to slip past the BOC without the involvement of anyone from Customs?” said the Senate President.
Sen. Bam Aquino said it was clear during the Senate hearings that the shabu shipment would have not slipped past the BOC in May without the help of someone inside the BOC.
“It takes two to tango,” Aquino said in a statement.
Both Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis Pangilinan said the DOJ decision clearly showed that allies of the administration were being exonerated, citing the case of Supt. Marvin Marcos whom the DOJ cleared for the 2016 murder of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa.
“The question now is, who is responsible for the entry of the P6-billion shabu, the security guard at Customs? Mr. Duterte, you are fooling people,” Trillanes said in a text statement.
Pangilinan said the BOC should be held accountable for the smuggling of the illegal drug. But he said, “If you are an ally, you are spared.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) should appeal the case so that Customs officials behind the shipment would be punished.
“The PDEA should be relentless in pursuing this case because this is clearly destroying the justice system in the country,” Drilon said in a statement.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, said he only partly agreed with the DOJ exonerating the BOC officials, noting that Milo Maestrecampo, former director of the Import Assessment Service, should be investigated further.
Gordon told reporters that Maestrecampo was involved in the entry of the shabu shipment because he allowed shipments to be in the green lane, where no BOC inspection was needed.
“Based on the hearings conducted by the Senate, the evidence shows that Maestrecampo provided aid in allowing the shipment of drugs enter in the country’s front door smoothly through the green lane,” Gordon also said in a statement.
The senator said there was evidence showing Maestrecampo’s involvement with customs fixer Mark Taguba.
“What about Neil Estrella? He was the one who botched
the seizure operations—facts [showed the failure was deliberate],” Gordon said.
Taguba facilitated the shabu shipment while Estrella was director of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Services.
Gordon said his committee report had recommended criminal charges to be filed against Faeldon and three of his officials for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and the customs and tariff administration law.
He urged the Ombudsman to “take cognizance” of his committee’s findings and recommendations.
Pimentel told reporters that senators would soon discuss the possibility of releasing Faeldon from Senate detention for humanitarian reasons because of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Cited for contempt
Faeldon has been detained in the Senate since Sept. 12 after the chamber cited him for contempt for refusing to appear at its hearings.
Pimentel said the Senate would discuss the possible release of Faeldon after it shall have passed the proposed 2018 national budget and the comprehensive tax reform bill.
Faeldon’s lawyer Jose Dino, in a phone-patched interview with reporters, said he had not asked the Senate to release his client.
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