Customs Commissioner Nicanor E. Faeldon taunted lawmakers on Wednesday to “try harder” in booting him out of office, following President Duterte’s assurance that he still enjoys his confidence, despite the failure of the bureau to stop the entry of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs from China.
At a news briefing, Faeldon even lashed back at some government officials, including lawmakers, who are trying to meddle with the affairs of the Bureau of Customs (BOC). He said some of these legislators could even be held liable for corruption.
He disclosed that there are legislators who are backing certain people in the bureau wanted him to influence the promotion board for their own interest. Faeldon, however, declined to reveal their identities.
“I don’t want to name names, but this is what they want: They want me influence that promotion board so that their people here will be promoted and I told them right in their face I will never lift a finger to influence the promotion board. Why? Because that is a form of corruption,” Faeldon told reporters.
The customs chief assured that influence peddlers have no place in the bureau as long as he remains at the helm.
“Please, I’m appealing to you. You know that your request is a form of corruption and you insist and get mad at me. My God! Shame on you, stop it, this is not just your country, this not your property, this is not mine, this is the country’s Bureau of Customs, this is the Filipino people’s Bureau of Customs, so don’t act like you own this,” Faeldon said.
The customs chief noted that while his qualifications does not suit his current position, his ability to say “no” to influence peddlers was the main consideration by Duterte in appointing him to his post.
“I’m appealing to you stop it, even if you get angry at me, try your best to boot me out here everyday, but as long as I’m here I will continue to say no,” Faeldon said.
House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez and other lawmakers have urged Faeldon to step down for allegedly bungling the operations to apprehend those behind the entry of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs in the country.
Aside from the House of Representatiaves, the Senate has also started its own probe on the matter.
The call from lawmakers’ for Faeldon’s resignation came after the Phillippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) accused the agency of violating certain laws and procedures in connection with the seizure of the P6.4-billion illegal drugs.
They insisted that Faeldon embarrassed the President by failing to detect the drug shipment at the Manila port.
“If tomorrow they will succeed in booting me out of here, that’s going to be the happiest day of my life, who wants this job, come on, this is not the job for me,” Faeldon told his critics.
The embattled BOC chief, however, acknowledged that accuracy of the statements made by PDEA Regional Director for Metro Manila Wilkins M. Villanueva.
Villanueva recounted what transpired on May 26 in Paso de Blas, Valenzuela, when joint operatives of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, the National Bureau of Investigation-Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division and PDEA raided a warehouse owned by a certain Richard Tan.
Villanueva told lawmakers that when Faeldon called him to be part of the operations, drugs were already spread all over the place.
PDEA officials said he insisted on conducting a controlled delivery in order to apprehend all those involved, including the possible end-users and use the shabu shipment as evidence.
However, Villanueva said Faeldon insisted that the controlled delivery should involve only one metal cylinder containing about 100 kilos of shabu after consulting a lady lawyer, who the commissioner admitted was his fiancé who is also a private lawyer.
Faeldon admitted that he insisted that the controlled delivery should only cover one metal cylinder because of time constraint.
He noted that PDEA operatives were informed about the operation at 9 a.m, but Villanueva’s group arrived four hours later.
Faeldon said it would take them hours to conduct the controlled delivery if all the five cylinders would be included in the controlled delivery.
“If he arrived earlier, those procedural errors that we have committed would have been corrected,” the customs chief added.
Faeldon disclosed that Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea has referred the matter also for investigation by the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission.
A new system implemented by Customs, instead of reducing irregularities at the BOC, facilitated release of “more illegal importations”, Sen. Richard J. Gordon reported, summing up initial findings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry into the P6.4-million shabu shipment from China seized at a warehouse in Valenzuela last month.
“Their new system went awry,” Gordon said, noting that the BOC system for tagging suspicious cargoes “collapsed”, allowing the illegal drug shipment to pass through customs officers unchecked.
Senate probers were told that in order to prevent unnecessary issuance of alert orders and protect the integrity of the alert order system, Faeldon issued Customs Memorandum Order 23-2016, which revoked an earlier memorandum giving authority to issue alert orders to the Deputy Commissioner (DepCom), Intelligence Group; DepCom, Enforcement Group; and the DepCom Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group on issues concerning rules of origin, valuation and classification of goods, including all district collectors for shipment arriving within their district and subports.
The committee was informed that, under Faeldon’s memo, only the Office of the Commissioner, through the Command Center (ComCen) created under Customs Special Order 45-2016, is authorized to issue alert orders. The ComCen is headed by Gerardo Gambala.
Gordon, however, rejected BOC officials’ claim that the drug shipment consigned to EMT Trading was placed under Customs’ green lane for priority cargos because Customs officer Lambert Hilario, head of the BOC-Risk Management Office, “failed to update the entries on the required parameters for the EMT shipment”.
The senator suspects there could have been “bigger shabu shipments that were allowed to pass undetected” through the BOC’s green lane and that the seized shipment may have been “a decoy for bigger shipments”.