PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte refused to meddle into the P6.4 billion “shabu” mess at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), his spokesman said on Friday.
Ernesto Abella issued the statement amid the resignations by Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service Director Neil Anthony Estrella and Customs Import Assessment Service Director Milo Maestrecampo who were linked to the illegal shipment that entered the country undetected.
Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon appointed Estrella and Maestrecampo when he assumed office. Faeldon himself had offered to resign but was urged by the President to stay.
“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 in the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) Children’s Cancer Institute at the SPMC Compound in Davao City on Thursday.
The President was referring to Faeldon’s past as a Marine captain and member of the Magdalo group who rebelled against then President Gloria Arroyo over her alleged non-action on corruption in the military.
“The President does not intervene in matters like these. He wants to allow the process to unfold, and that is not unusual. The process has already began,” Abella said in a news conference on Friday.
While he did not call on Faeldon to resign, the President assured the public that he would honor his word of stepping down as President if one of his own children would get involved in corruption.
Self-proclaimed Customs broker Mark Taguba testified in the recent congressional inquiries that the Customs officials he had been bribing for the speedy clearance of a shipment have been name-dropping Duterte’s son and Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.
“The sad thing is the name of my son, the Vice Mayor, was mentioned. Ladies and gentlemen, I have this solemn commitment that if anyone of my children will be involved in corruption, I will step down as the President of his Republic. I said it during my inauguration day, and I am repeating it today,” Duterte said. LLANESCA T. PANTI