THE nation today is caught in a vise (the jaws) of hypocrisy — on one jaw, Bureau of Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, and on the other, Commission on Human Rights Chairman Jose Luis Gascon.
Against all sense of decency and honor, despite the calls for resignation from the Congress and the public swirling over their heads, and despite the harvest of embarrassment for their families, the two insist on clinging to their posts.
Strangely, Faeldon and Gascon rhyme in their names and strategies for stonewalling their certain and eventual removal from office.
A mission and a crusade
Faeldon declares that he is a soldier on a mission to fix or straighten the customs bureau. He will not leave unless President Duterte fires him. He is totally confident that the President will not remove him; perhaps he is counting on the phalanx of Magdalo mutineers that he has embedded in key positions within the bureau, and on the assured support of Magdalo chieftain Sen. Antonio Trillanes.
Gascon says he is a holy man on a crusade for the noble cause of human rights. He contends that the CHR is a constitutional office, which means that he as chairman enjoys a fixed term, and cannot be removed from office. He is counting on the support of domestic and international human rights groups to protest his dismissal.
Faeldon proudly declared: “I am a soldier. I do not treat this position as a job, but as a mission. A soldier does not quit on his mission.”
“Let the President fire me,” he added.
Gascon says he will not leave unless the charter is amended or the CHR act is amended or repealed.
In reply to these defiant declarations, the administration has sent confusing signals.
From out of the blue, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez butted in, saying that the President has full confidence in Faeldon, so he will stay atthe job – this without a review of the devastating disclosures at the Senate and House hearings, which uncovered the extent of incompetence and unlawful actions of the bureau in the drug smuggling case. Dominguez should also be grilled by Congress.
It must be asked why lawyer Mary Therese Anderson. Faeldon’s chief of staff, has completely has disappeared from view? Can she not furnish a ruse for her boss to stay in office?
Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo issued a limp-wristed opinion that Gascon cannot be fired by the President.
In fact, Gascon stands on shaky ground with his claim. The CHR is not a constitutional office as he claims. In the Charter, there are only three constitutional commissions: the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and the Commission on Audit (COA).
Gascon should know this because he was a member of the Cory-appointed constitutional commission that drafted the Charter in 1986.
The fact is, the CHR is a creation of Congress. It may not appropriate the privileges and protections of the authentic constitutional commissions.
Customs violations of law
Faeldon was heavily battered by legislators, first at the Senate and then at the House, over the entry into the country of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs, particularly shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride), bypassing scrutiny from the Bureau of Customs (BoC).
At the Senate, Sen. Panfilo Lacson averred that P270 million in payola is paid customs officials every day by businessmen for their containers. The total monthly pay-out could wipe out the entire budget deficit of government.
At the inquiry by the House committee on dangerous drugs, Customs was accused of conducting an illegal raid in Valenzuela City in the operation that led to the seizure of the P6.4 billion worth of shabu.
Wilkins Villanueva, regional director of the National Capital Region (NCR), said the BoC violated the Dangerous Drugs Act when its employees decided to initially transport just one of the five cylinders under a controlled delivery operation, leaving four other cylinders containing around 500 kilograms of shabu in the warehouse.
“How can we conduct an anti-illegal drug operation when the drugs are already out of the cylinders? Everybody was touching the drugs. They (Customs) contaminated everything,” Villanueva said.
“They (Customs side) won’t listen to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). They don’t listen to us experts. They insisted that only one cylinder will suffice for controlled delivery operation,” Villanueva added.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers, the committee chairman, expressed concern that the raid in Valenzuela City was only based on a Letter of Authority (LOA), which could not supplant a search warrant.
“The LOA is not provided for by the [Dangerous Drugs] law. What customs did violates chain of custody. You need to follow the law,” Barbers said.
He rounded his point by questioning Faeldon’s qualifications for his post.
It is striking that the controversy over Mary Therese Anderson’s accusations against Speaker Alvarez completely disappeared after the drug smuggling issue came up front. Nobody has heard of the lady since.
Carry them out bodily
What should government do when officials defiantly refuse to resign even when their agencies wallow in incompetence and ineffectiveness?
What is the nation to do when Congress no less questions their moral and legal claim to stay in office?
These officials cling to their posts because Filipino officials tend to live parasitically on the largesse of government. They are public servants who perform no service. Their chief interest is to serve themselves.
I think it is time to apply a lesson from history to the obduracy of Faeldon and Gascon.
There is a memorable lesson of a public official at the Philippine National Railways (PNR) who was carried out bodily from his office, chained to his office chair, because he would not resign. He was photographed accordingly and splashed all over the media. The episode must have been so humiliating, because the concerned official apparently realized the futility of his fight. He was promptly forgotten.
I think something similar should be administered to Faeldon and Gascon.
The experience will be so unbearable, their own families will plead with them to resign.
A two-step process will do the trick. Step one is for Congress to conduct a serious inquiry into how each office performs its functions, and how it can justify its existence.
Step two will involve the removal bodily of the customs commissioner and the human rights chairman.
I am assured by a respected lawyer that clinging to public office is not a human right. The United Nations will not intervene.