A FORMER Customs employee has denied liability involving the entry into the country of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs.
Larribert Hilario, former chief of the Risk Management Office (RMO), who was officially relieved from his post last June 19, argued that his office was not authorized to tag a shipment that would either clear it for entry or require it to pass through the regular inspection by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
“The RMO has no power to tag a shipment [of a specific color]. It is the importers and the brokers who lodge the details of a shipment into the E2M (electronic to mobile) system. These details in the E2M System is the basis of the tagging [on which lane the shipment should pass],” Hilario said in Filipino at the resumption of the investigation by the House of Representatives on the P6.4 billion smuggled “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) on Wednesday.
Hilario said that his RMO office was in charge only of determining the risk factors of a shipment.
“My office does not have the authority to clear a shipment,” Hilario added.
At the time that the P6.4 billion illegal drugs were smuggled into the country, Hilario was officer-in-charge of the Command Center, which has the authority to issue an alert order on suspicious shipments.
Hilario passed the blame on the Import Assessment Service (IAS) Unit, which identified the value of the shipment since the IAS ignored his request for the list of new importers from December 2016 to May 2017.
Hilario said that he smelled “monkey business” concerning shipments under EMT trading because of its identical tax dues worth P40,000 for each of its shipment. This was on May 22, a day before the P6.4 billion drugs arrived and went through Customs without undergoing scrutiny.
Customs officials were able to seize the P6.4 billion shabu in a Valenzuela warehouse on May 26.
“Had they (IAS unit people) gave my request [for list of new importers], I would have issued an alert order on this shipment,” Hilario added.
Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, however, maintained that he made the right call in firing Hilario.
“Based on our initial investigation, you (Hilario) have neglected your duty because you failed to enter the data parameters that would have enabled us to flag EMT which is a new importer and falls under sole proprietorship,” Faeldon said.
Director Milo Maestrecampo of IAS unit shared Faeldon’s stance.
“The shipment is not alertable based on value [of tax dues]. And given that he is the Command Center OIC, he has the authority to issue an alert order if he finds it necessary. He does not even need to submit a request a list of new importers,” Maestrecampo said.
Faeldon and Customs were being accused by lawmakers and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) of bungling the raid because they violated the Dangerous Drugs law, which mandated PDEA to “take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals seized, confiscated or surrendered to any national, provincial or local law enforcement agency, if no longer needed for purposes of evidence in court.”
Faeldon invoked the Customs Modernization and Tariff law, which provided that Customs officials “may, at any time, enter, pass through, and search any land, enclosure, warehouse, store, building or structure not principally used as a dwelling house.”