He may have incurred the ire of lawmakers for the entry of a huge shipment of illegal drugs into the country, but Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon is staying put at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd said.
President Rodrigo Duterte summoned Faeldon to the Palace on Tuesday, hours after the House of Representatives opened its inquiry into the entry of a huge shipment of shabu into the country in May this year.
Dominguez said the President has “full confidence” in the Customs commissioner despite the controversy.
“The Chief Executive has expressed his full confidence in Commissioner Faeldon and told him to focus on serving the country,” the Finance chief told reporters after the President met Faeldon.
Some members of the House had called for Faeldon’s resignation, saying he should be held accountable for the smuggling of illegal drugs from China.
The Bureau of Customs is under the supervision of the Department of Finance.
Aside from Faeldon and Dominguez, Duterte also met with Bureau of Internal Revenue chief Cesar Dulay.
“The Chief Executive has asked the BIR commissioner to accelerate tax collections to cover unexpected expenses due to natural disasters and the Marawi rebellion,” Dominguez added.
The meeting at the Palace came a day after the Senate Blue Ribbon panel conducted a five-hour hearing on the shabu allegedly smuggled through the Bureau of Customs in May.
The shipment was seized in an operation led by Customs in Valenzuela warehouses days after.
During an executive session, a broker reportedly claimed that Customs officials were involved in the smuggling of shabu worth P6.4 billion.
Duterte has vowed to implement a harsh crackdown on government officials involved in drug trafficking. He has also promised to fire any of his appointees if he catches even a “whiff of corruption” involving any of them.
‘I’m a soldier’
On Tuesday, Faeldon said it was the President who should ask him to resign, not lawmakers.
“I am a soldier. I don’t treat this position as a job; it is a mission. And a soldier does not quit from his mission, but the soldier can be fired. So let the President fire me,” he said.
Before he left the House of Representatives, Faeldon had to listen to calls for his resignation from lawmakers and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), who accused him and his subordinates of conducting an illegal raid in Valenzuela City that led to the seizure of P6.4 billion worth of shabu.
Rep. Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte, who led the probe, and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas stressed that the raid in Valenzuela City would not build a strong case against drug traffickers since the raid was only based on a Letter of Authority (LOA)—a document issued by a Customs Commissioner, which could not supplant a search warrant.
“The LOA is not provided for by the [Dangerous Drugs] law. What you did violates the chain of custody. You need to follow the law,” Barbers said.
“I don’t really know what your qualifications are for that post. You brought embarrassment to the President,” Barbers added.
PDEA Chief Isidro Lapeña requested an executive session or closed-door meeting with House members when Barbers asked him about the conduct of the May 26 raid in Valenzuela City that yielded P6.4 billion worth of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride).
Faeldon and other Customs officials were excluded from the executive session.
In his opening statement during the hearing, Barbers slammed Faeldon and Customs officials for what he described as “gross incompetence” that led to the entry of P6.4 billion worth of shabu into the country.
“Those drugs entered the country under their (Customs officials) very noses, undetected. If this happened in other countries, Customs officials would be resigning [by now]for delicadeza’s sake,” Barbers said.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte echoed Barbers’ call.
“He (Faeldon) let those drugs get in. If I were in his place, I would have already resigned,” Alvarez added.
with LLANESCA T. PANTI