Solons question athletes on BOC payroll
About 30 basketball and volleyball players, including Kenneth Duremdes, Marlou Aquino and Alyssa Valdez, were hired as “technical assistants” of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) last year although their only apparent function was to play for or coach the agency’s teams in tournaments.
BOC officials allegedly placed the active and retired sports stars under departments like the Office of the Commissioner or the Intelligence Group to skirt government audit rules, lawmakers investigating irregularities in the BOC learned on Wednesday evening.
Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon confirmed the appointments of the athletes during the hearing called by the House ways and means committee on Wednesday, but he defended their employment, saying he had consulted lawyers who assured him it was aboveboard.
Still on BOC payroll
Some of the athletes remain on the BOC payroll, while others have left, Faeldon told the House panel.
Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, who confronted the BOC officials about the hiring of the players, agreed that there was nothing wrong with employing athletes to BOC positions—but only if they were qualified.
If they were hired by the agency for the sole purpose of playing sports, that might be an issue of misuse of government funds, he told reporters on Thursday.
“We have already asked the BOC to show us the 201 files of the players,” the congressman said.
Abu said there seemed to be a disconnect between the hiring of players in the bureau and Faeldon’s earlier pronouncement that the BOC had strict rules for its employment process when he called out cases of influence-peddling by members of Congress in the agency.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chair of the House dangerous drugs committee, slammed Faeldon’s “hypocrisy.”
“Look who’s talking! Faeldon tarnished the reputation of the entire House of Representatives by insinuating that lawmakers are endorsing promotions or employment to the bureau of certain personnel,” Barbers said.
“Yet, it turned out he has employed sports people with dubious qualifications for their position,” he added.
Last week, Faeldon’s chief of staff Mandy Anderson accused Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of bullying her to force the promotion of an unqualified customs officer, which Alvarez denied.
Then on Wednesday, Faeldon lashed out at lawmakers and other government officials for trying to influence promotions and assignments at the BOC.
Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua, chair of the ways and means panel, said he was hurt by Faeldon’s allegations.
“These [basketball and volleyball] players were not endorsed by congressmen but were ‘self-hired’ and they’re still there,” he said.
Daily time record
During the hearing, which lasted until past 11 p.m., Abu asked the customs officials to confirm the authenticity of a document bearing the names of players hired by the BOC.
The BOC special order, dated Sept. 27, 2016, lists down 28 basketball and volleyball players. Signed by Faeldon, the document authorizes Anderson to sign the daily time record of the “customs personnel.”
Seven of the athletes, including Duremdes and Valdez, were placed under the Office of the Commissioner, while 19 others were under the Intelligence Group. One player was put in the Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group.
In October 2016, Duremdes coached the BOC Transformers team in the charity basketball league UNTV Cup, which was participated in by teams from other government agencies. The customs team’s beneficiary was Caritas Manila Inc.
As controversy swirled around the athletes’ appointments, Cua said it should not take away from the bigger issue of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs that entered the country through the green lane of the BOC.
He said the five crates clandestinely carrying 605 kilos of “shabu” (crystal meth) seized by the BOC recently were part of a larger consignment of 23 packages. “They only [seized] five so where are the other 18?”
“That’s potentially tantamount to more than two tons of shabu in the market. There could be that much shabu circulating in the market worth P22.5 billion. I want to focus on that,” Cua said. —DJ YAP
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.