Duterte won’t intervene in P6.4-B shabu case

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President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected the resignation of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon’s two deputies over a shabu cargo worth P6.4 billion that was smuggled out of the Port of Manila months ago.

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Intelligence and Investigation Service Director Neil Anthony Estrella and Import Assessment Service Director Milo Maestrecampo had offered to quit even as the House of Representatives and the Senate continued investigating the incident.

Estrella led a raid on a Valenzuela City warehouse where the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency found the shabu.

“These former soldiers who engaged in mutiny in the Arroyo administration, my clarion call [to them]was reform since graft [in Customs]is no longer tolerable. That’s why I have assigned them there in sensitive positions,” Duterte said in a speech during a visit to Southern Philippines Medical Center Children’s Cancer Institute at the SPMC Compound in Davao City on Thursday.

Faeldon, Estrella and Maestrecampo were members of the Magdalo group that led a rebellion against then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over her alleged inaction on corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The President has not even asked Faeldon to “go on leave,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

It was learned also on Thursday that the Customs chief suffered hypertension and heart attack while he was undergoing a dental procedure.

While he did not call on Faeldon to resign or take a leave of absence, the President assured the public that he will honor his word of stepping down as President if one of his children gets involved in corruption.

Customs broker Mark Taguba testified before lawmakers that he pays off BoC officials for speedy shipment clearance and linked Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, the President’s son, to the bribe-taking.

Sen. Ralph Recto on Friday urged Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd to revamp the Customs bureau now that Estrella and Maestrecampo have resigned.

“A revamp is in order. With the resignation of most members of the current management, a new team must be appointed immediately,” Recto said.

“These must be competent and ethical people, knowledgeable of the intricacies and culture of Customs operators because the country cannot afford OJTs [on the job trainees]on training wheels being appointed to such crucial jobs,” he added.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, inquiring into the P6.4-billion contraband, said there is “no need to prod” Faeldon into resigning.

But according to Gordon, the BoC commissioner should resign out of delicadeza (sense of propriety).

He scored Faeldon for creating a Command Center that arrogated unto itself practically all law enforcement powers of the BoC.

with BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO

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