• Customs staff admits boss receiving payoff from fixer in Senate probe


    SENATOR Panfilo Lacson presented a contractual employee of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) who could corroborate customs “fixer” Mark Taguba’s claims about the existence of “tara” (payoff) system at the bureau.

    At the resumption of the Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry into the alleged corruption at the BOC on Wednesday, May Escoto, a staff of Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Division chief Joel Pinawin, told the committee that she personally handed envelops, believed to be containing money, to Pinawin.

    Taguba, during the previous committee hearing, presented text messages, phone records, and bank transactions showing Pinawin and former CIIS Director Neil Anthony Estrella allegedly receiving payoffs.

    Escoto said she personally handed the envelops from Taguba to Pinawin on April 7, 21 and May 5.

    She said Pinawin would ask her to contact Taguba either through phone or text to remind him about what should be given to Panawin and a director.

    Escoto said she first met Taguba in March when he visited their office and had a meeting with her boss.

    She said she was instructed by Pinawin on April 7, to remind Taguba about what’s intended for a certain director and for him.

    “Sabi ko happy morning remind lang po ni Sir Joel yung para kay director at ‘yung sa kanya,” Escoto told senators, referring to the text message she sent to Taguba.

    She was then instructed to do the same on April 21 and on May 5, and these all involved Taguba handing two brown envelops intended for Panawin.

    Escoto said she never opened the envelops but believed that they contained money.

    There was even a time when Pinawin asked her to give him her sim card and would give her money for her to buy a new one.

    Pinawin, who was present in the hearing, denied Escoto’s claims and even accused her and Taguba of allegedly conspiring against him. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA



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