Senate blue ribbon panel criticizes Aguirre for cavalier attitude
Published: 9:51 p.m., Oct. 10, 2017 | Updated: 11:21 p.m., Oct. 11, 2017
The Senate blue ribbon committee assailed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for belittling the magnitude of the shipment of P6.4 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) from China that slipped through the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in May.
The committee, which Sen. Richard Gordon chairs, said it was unbecoming of a justice secretary to have a cavalier attitude toward the case.
“The secretary of justice has to do more in helping solve the problem of drugs. It was disheartening to note that, in the hearing of 19th September, he seemed to have given up on this case,” the committee report said, referring to its probe of the shabu smuggling and payola system at the BOC.
Aguirre, it said, gave the “impression that he did not give this case the needed attention.”
“He seemed to have just left things to his [undersecretaries], NBI and PDEA [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency]. He created the impression that he was too busy with other things. Not felt or not put through to the committee was a sense of urgency, a sense that speed was an imperative,” the report said.
“Such cavalier treatment of a serious case, like this, is not becoming of a justice secretary,” it added.
The Senate panel recommended the filing of charges against resigned Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and several other officials for allowing the illegal drug shipment to slip through the BOC.
The PDEA has already filed criminal complaints against Faeldon and the sacked BOC officials in connection with the drug shipment.
The blue ribbon committee has recommended that at least four criminal charges be filed against fixer Mark Ruben Taguba II for facilitating the shabu shipment.
The report called Taguba the “quintessential corruptor, the fulcrum without which the entry lever of the illegal drugs would not have risen.”
Gordon’s panel believed that Taguba, despite disclosing the names of BOC officials who allegedly received payola, should be held accountable for bribing several people for the release of his clients’ containers.
It recommended the filing of three criminal charges against Taguba for violating Republic Act No. 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, for importation of drugs, RA 10683, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, Article 212 of the Revised Penal Code for bribing public officials and Presidential Decree No. 1829 for obstructing the arrest and prosecution of criminal offenders.
Moreover, the report noted a “strong indication” that Taguba lied in his testimonies in the hearings.
“He only revealed names of people he did not have a direct connection to and chose to feign ignorance on names crucial to identifying the real corrupt officials in the BOC,” it said.
“He allegedly paid a P5-million ‘enrollment fee.’ Interestingly, it betrays logic for someone to give P5 million to people whose full names he didn’t even know.”
Taguba said he dealt with a certain Tita Nanie who was part of the so-called Davao Group, allegedly protected by Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.
Taguba said he did not know Tita Nanie’s full name. She never appeared in any of the committee’s hearings.
The committee also recommended the filing of charges against licensed customs broker Teejay Marcellana and “consignee-for-hire” Eirene Mae Tatad for importing drugs. Marcellana may be charged with violating RA 10683, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
Trillanes won’t sign report
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday described the draft committee report as weak. “I will not sign it and I will oppose it on the floor when [Gordon] sponsors the report,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Trillanes said the exclusion of Davao Vice Mayor Duterte and his brother-in-law from those recommended to be charged criminally over the shabu shipment was a “clear cover-up” by Gordon “to please his political master.”
“Suspected drug pushers and users are wantonly killed in the streets while the people behind the illegal drug smuggling are merely subjected to a lifestyle check,” he said . “It is selective as it only chose to [implicate] the expendables and spare big names.” —With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy
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