CUSTOMS Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon is clearly being manipulated by his subordinates in the bureau, a lawmaker warned on Sunday.
Rep. Jericho Nograles of Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta drew this conclusion after three days of hearings at the House of Representatives in connection with the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs, which passed through the express lane of the BOC.
Nograles’ statement came after Faeldon drew flak from lawmakers over his decision to divide custody of the smuggled drugs between the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). The portion with the NBI had to be left in the warehouse for a longer period because Faeldon claimed that leaving it there would enable authorities to build a strong case against the owner of the warehouse.
Faeldon is also taking the heat for hiring professional basketball and volleyball coaches and players as technical assistants under his office and the intelligence group of the Bureau of Customs.
“I believe in his (Faeldon’s) integrity but he lacks the legal and administrative know-how in running a highly complex office like Customs. Because of his apparent lack of understanding on the dynamics and the deeply-rooted system of corruption, the people surrounding him easily manipulated their system to perpetuate malpractices within the bureau, said Nograles, a member of the House commitee on ways and means.
Nograles said that for one, Faeldon should have immediately protested the existing BOC cargo selection system wherein all incoming shipments passed through the green lane or express lane as a default before being downgraded to red lane or flagged lane based on pre-set parameters programmed on their computer system.
Faeldon has accused Larribert Hilario, former Customs command center officer-in-charge of failing to red flag the shipment containing P6.4 billion of illegal drugs, which was shipped to EMT trading, a new importer under sole proprietorship.
Faeldon fired Hilario after Customs officials seized the smuggled “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) in a Valenzuela warehouse.
“This alone is amateurish. If only the Customs system was designed to classify all shipments in the red lane before they are upgraded to the green lane, it would take greater effort for smugglers to manipulate it and get a green classification,” Nograles said.
“Commissioner Faeldon might be true to his mandate but I don’t feel the same way on the people who are with him. That shabu shipment that passed through the green lane could have not happened without the knowledge of people in his office. It happened under his nose,“ Nograles added.
Nograles also said that Faeldon was ill-advised in his decision to hire former professional athletes purportedly to help rehabilitate BOC’s image of being a hotbed for corruption.
“I’m sure even the Commission on Audit will agree with me that paying P50,000 monthly for each of these ex-athletes is just too much for showboating and therefore illegal. We have other government employees who deserve better,” Nograles said. LLANESCA T. PANTI