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Rody: BOC corrupt to the core... except Faeldon
MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte yesterday spewed curses anew over the drug menace and corruption in the Bureau of Customs (BOC), describing the agency as “corrupt to the core” following the shabu smuggling controversy that saw P6.4 billion worth of shabu clearing Customs through the green or express lane.
Duterte, however, spared Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, exempting him from the sweeping accusation of corruption.
Duterte also admitted failure on his part for apparently miscalculating how to deal with corruption and drugs in the government.
“I know I was wrong. I was really wrong. I never knew… I thought the BOC was my ally. But Faeldon is not the one. He is not that kind of… I won’t defend him,” he said before members of the Misamis Occidental Provincial Police Office (PPO) during his visit in Ozamiz City yesterday.
Duterte also revealed that Faeldon had tendered his resignation in the past but he repeatedly declined it.
“Faeldon has written me thrice, asking me to relieve him even long before… He said he wasn’t able to make good his promise to me… He was right,” the Chief Executive said, quoting Faeldon’s statement that he was unable to control corruption in the agency.
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Duterte also took potshots at Bureau of Internal Revenue employees, another agency deemed as corrupt.
“I will not sit on my ass,” he said, adding he could not stomach corruption and allow the country to wallow in drugs.
Duterte apparently blew his top over the failure to curb corruption in the BOC even if he had placed people with integrity on the job.
“What is the hope of our children here, this son of a b***h nation?” Duterte said.
Invite to hearing
In a related development, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has formally asked the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to invite three individuals linked by broker-importer Mark Taguba as the ones connected to the so-called Davao Group within the BOC.
In separate letters to committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon, Trillanes asked that Lourdes Rosario of the BOC’s imports and assessment service, BOC’s auction division head Hernani Co and Davao City councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera be invited to the next hearing on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China scheduled for next Tuesday.
In his testimony before the Senate and the House of Representatives, Taguba named a certain Tita Nani, Jack and Small as his contacts whenever the Davao group wanted to facilitate the release of contraband from Customs.
It was in this context that Duterte’s son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, was mentioned by Taguba.
Taguba said the name of the younger Duterte was mentioned alongside the Davao group, but that these were mere rumors.
In an interview over ANC yesterday, Trillanes said he has an unofficial list of BOC officials who allegedly accept payola.
Trillanes said his list, which he admitted was not vetted, included Faeldon.
Estrella was the primary operator for the senior officials of the BOC, according to the senator.
Trillanes said five informants confirmed to him that Estrella was the one who knows the amount of payoffs that each BOC official would receive.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who earlier came out with his own list, also confirmed that Faeldon was among the officials involved.
Lacson is expected to present his list in the next Blue Ribbon committee hearing.
In a separate interview on ANC, Estrella denied Trillanes’ claim, saying he does not know the basis of this.
Estrella said he was fairly new in his post so it was unlikely for someone like him to be managing officials above him.
He added he was shocked and surprised by what came out during the Senate hearings, where one of the principal suspects in the smuggling of the drugs from China suddenly pointed to him and other BOC officials as the culprits.
Meanwhile, Trillanes said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s reported plan to use businessman Kenneth Dong as a state witness in the case is “setting the stage to absolve Paolo Duterte’s good friend/partner” in the controversy.
P8-B drugs seized
The BOC has seized over 800 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu and other drugs worth P8 billion in the past 12 months, an official said yesterday.
Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) director Neil Estrella said that from July 2016 until last month, some P8.07 billion worth of drugs were seized, including the P6.4-billion worth of shabu recovered in a raid on two warehouses in Valenzuela City last May 26 and currently the subject of inquiries both at the Senate and House of Representatives.
“That is 800 kilos of drugs off our streets,” Estrella told The STAR, even as he strongly denied allegations that the CIIS team, Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and the people he brought with him to the bureau facilitated the May shabu shipment.
“We were the ones who ran after (the shabu) that slipped from China. We were also the ones who tracked down the other warehouse and brokers,” he stressed.
Faeldon has tendered his resignation but it has not yet been accepted by President Duterte, who on Wednesday described the former as “really honest.”
On July 3 last year, CIIS operatives and members of the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group recovered 187 kilos of shabu worth P900 million found in a shipment that landed in Claveria, Cagayan.
The following week, the BOC with the PNP also intercepted a Chinese vessel – believed to be floating shabu laboratory – anchored in Subic Bay in Barangay Calapandayan, Zambales. Seized were a large self-sealing plastic bag of shabu and a hydrogenator used in the manufacture of the drug.
Last February, the CIIS seized precursor chemicals valued at P3 million at the Mindanao Container Terminal. The chemicals used in the manufacture of shabu came from India and arrived at the Port of Cagayan de Oro last Jan. 31.
Estrella said the BOC also confiscated P679 million worth of drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy pills and shabu, from inbound passengers.
He also countered views that the raid they did in Valenzuela City last May 26 weakened the case as the BOC did not coordinate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). – With Marvin Sy, Christina Mendez