FORMER Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon on Monday claimed that two senators made “illegal requests” when he was still the head of the Customs bureau.
At the resumption of the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the “tara” (payoff) system at the Bureau of Customs, Faeldon accused Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senate Majority floor leader Vicente Sotto 3rd of asking what he described as “illegal favors” during his stint at the bureau.
Faeldon mentioned the names of the two senators in response to the queries of Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th if there were politicians who made “illegal requests” from him while he was the head of the BoC.
According to Faeldon, Drilon in 2016 asked for a meeting at the senate for him to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the BoC and the office of National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). The agreement involved the renovation of the BoC house in Iloilo that will be shouldered by the (NHCP).
Under the agreement, the NHCP would convert the BoC property into a museum and in return the third floor of the renovated building will be occupied by the bureau.
“I’m sorry. I would like to apologize to the following senators because wala kayo dito (they are not here). But as far as I am concerned it is illegal,” he said.
Drilon admitted that there was indeed an agreement but maintained that there was nothing illegal about it.
“There is nothing illegal. It was a budget of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and they are requesting for my help,” he said.
He noted that the building Faeldon was referring to was not even owned by the BoC because the title is in the name of the Republic of the Philippines.
Faeldon said Sotto recommended the promotion of an intelligence officer at the bureau who was undeserving.
Sotto admitted recommending someone for promotion but said he could not understand what made such request illegal.
“I think the former commissioner should stick to the issue which is how the P6.4 billion “shabu” shipment was released under his watch. Dragging my name into whatever illegal will not remove his culpability,” Sotto said.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the blue ribbon panel, agreed that the two senators did not commit illegal acts.
“He lives in his own world. I think he should see a psychiatrist and I really mean that,” Gordon said.
He added that President Rodrigo Duterte should not have appointed Faeldon to the Office of Civil Defense.
“We have been very forgiving on those who led a coup in the country,” Gordon said.
Faeldon was accused by Sen. Panfilo Lacson of receiving P100 million as “pasalubong” (welcome gift) when he was appointed to the BoC.
According to Lacson, Faeldon also failed to put a stop to the rampant corruption at the BoC, the reason why the P6.4 billion “shabu” shipment from China was released undetected through the bureau’s “green lane.”
In his privilege speech in August 2017, Lacson claimed that the share of each office or person in the bureau can range from a low of P200 to a high of P15,000 per container.
“Believe it or not, officials from the top offices of the Bureau down to those who monitor the “Gates” and “X-RAY” have their share in the tara (payoff),” he said in his speech.
Faeldon denied Lacson’s allegations that he received P100 million.
But during the hearing, he admitted that some of the names mentioned by Lacson tried to negotiate for the release of their shipments.
But even if he appeared at the Senate probe, Faeldon will not be released from detention because the Senate said he remained charged with contempt.
Gordon said the former customs commissioner would be transferred to the custody of the Pasay City jail.
“The Senate unanimously declared that Mr. Faeldon, formerly of Customs will remain charged with contempt and he will now be remanded to the custody of the Pasay City Jail upon order of commitment by the Senate President and it was agreed upon unanimously,” Gordon said.
Faeldon has been detained at the Senate since September after he was cited for contempt for refusing to attend the hearing on the BoC drug shipment controversy.
Gordon said he was prepared to recommend the release of Faeldon but everything changed when the latter disrespected the institution during the hearing when he criticized committee.
Faeldon and Gordon engaged in a heated exchange during the early part of the hearing when the former questioned the manner the senator was handling the investigation.
He even criticized Gordon for giving lectures during the hearing instead of asking relevant questions.
Faeldon said he attended the proceedings because he expected Gordon to lead the committee in finding the truth about the Customs issues.
“I did not attend so that I will have my liberty. I attended because I am the most interested person to ferret out the truth,” he said.