Duterte stands by Faeldon: ‘I still believe he’s honest’
President Duterte continued to stand by outgoing Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon even as the House committee on dangerous drugs prepared to recommend the filing of criminal and administrative charges against the former mutineer and his subordinates over the alleged “tara system” of bribery in the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
During a visit to Marawi City on Thursday, Mr. Duterte insisted that he would not tolerate corruption during his administration, and alluded to an exchange of accusations between Faeldon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
“I still believe that Faeldon is honest,” he said.
Faeldon was among the people who convinced him to run for President three years ago, Mr. Duterte added.
He vouched for Faeldon’s integrity a day after Lacson accused the former BOC chief of receiving a P100-million payoff when he took over the bureau.
Faeldon hit back at the senator on Thursday, accusing Lacson’s son and namesake of involvement in cement smuggling and of attempting to bribe BOC officials.
At the House, panel chair Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said they reached the decision to recommend charges against Faeldon during Thursday’s congressional inquiry on the P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs smuggled into the country through the BOC.
The committee had not finalized its report as of Friday, however.
In a statement, Barbers said his committee had established that there was indeed a “tara system” in the BOC, through which BOC officials, including Faeldon, allegedly received payoffs for every shipment smuggled through major ports.
“I’m sure the members [join] me in the conclusion that there is really a systemic, endemic or whatever epidemic that is going on in the bureau,” he said. “And this is the reason why smuggling of goods, including ‘shabu,’ was possible.”
House members cannot press charges against individuals they deem criminally or administratively liable at the end of congressional hearings held in aid of legislation. They may, however, recommend legal action to appropriate agencies.
Barbers said the committee would recommend the filing of a criminal complaint against Faeldon for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and ask the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation.
The committee will also ask the Department of Justice to charge Faeldon’s chief of staff, Mandy Anderson, with falsification under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code.
Barbers said they would recommend to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) the filing of a complaint against Dennis Siyhian and Catherine Nolasco of the National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division.
Anderson made headlines after calling Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez an “imbecile” in a Facebook post and subsequently accusing him of influence-peddling.
During the hearing, it was revealed that Anderson was authorized by Faeldon to sign daily time records of basketball and volleyball players hired by the BOC and “made it appear that they reported for work” as technical assistants and intelligence agents when they were actually hired to play for BOC’s sports teams.
Siyhian and Nolasco allegedly failed to turn over the custody of the 500 kilos of shabu to the PDEA in violation of standard protocols and drug laws.
In a related development, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu moved that the name of Customs Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala be removed from the list of possible respondents in the absence of documents proving his liability.
The Senate has also been investigating the alleged corruption in the BOC, including supposed payoffs to a “Davao Group,” where the name of the President’s son, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, cropped up.
Customs broker and fixer Mark Taguba II had testified that he paid P5 million to Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr. to facilitate the release of his shipments.
Taguba also read his text message to a certain Tita Nani about his “enrollment” in the system, with the latter replying she would make the arrangement with a certain Jack, the “handler of Paolo.”
The same text message also mentioned the arrangement of a meeting with “Pulong,” Paolo’s nickname.
Taguba said he was told that Abellera was representing the Davao City vice mayor.
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