RESIGNED Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon has turned the tables on Sen. Panfilo Lacson, accusing the lawmaker’s son of being the country’s biggest cement smuggler.
A day earlier, Lacson exposed “systemic corruption” at the Bureau of Customs in a speech on the Senate floor, enumerating the names of bribe-givers and takers including Faeldon who supposedly got P100 million as a “welcome gift” upon taking over the agency last year. Lacson promptly denied Faeldon’s allegations and challenged him to press charges.
Faeldon hit back at Lacson on Thursday, inviting reporters to his simple home in Taytay, Rizal to send the message that he did not enrich himself in office.
His question to Lacson: If he knew a lot about the goings-on at Customs, how come he didn’t know that his son, Panfilo “Pampi” Lacson Jr. had been importing shiploads of cement without paying the correct taxes and duties?
Faeldon showed documents to prove Lacson’s son wanted to pay taxes and duties on only 50 percent of the cost of the cement imports – $8 per metric ton instead of the prevailing world market price of $16 to $20.
Faeldon also questioned how Panfilo Jr. was able to bring in P4.65 billion worth of cement over the past year when the latter’s sole proprietorship, Bonjourno Trading, had capitalization of only P20,000 in 2015.
“Their smuggling activities were by the billions. Ask Bonjourno how much tariff it paid to the government on the 67 shiploads [of cement]. If it does not match by the hundreds of millions, you are a smuggler Senator Lacson, unless you tell me that you don’t know the activities of Panfilo Lacson Jr.,” Faeldon charged.
“All you have to do Senator Lacson is to disprove that you own this (Bonjourno) because your son is the front here, your son introduced himself as the managing director. This is a single proprietorship with a P20,000 capitalization…where did you get your capital?” he said.
Cement makers complained
Faeldon, a former Marine captain and member of the Magdalo rebel group, said this was the reason Lacson wanted him out of the Bureau of Customs. Lacson, he said, was also eyeing another run for president.
“Ito `yung kinatatakutan niyo, kasi nakita na namin (This is what you were afraid of, because of what we have discovered). We will bring you to justice, that’s why you want us out. But you don’t need to that, I already volunteered to get out. I can’t believe you’re part of this,” Faeldon said.
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte announced Faeldon’s resignation following controversy over the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs from China in May, and said he would be replaced by Isidro Lapeña, head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Faeldon said he didn’t speak up earlier as he gave Lacson the benefit of the doubt, but changed his mind after Lacson’s “irresponsible” accusations against the Customs rank and file.
He noted that the Cement Manufacturers of the Philippines (CeMAP) wrote to him last year to report Bonjourno as the country’s largest cement smuggler.
But CeMAP, in a report by GMA News Online, clarified that it did not accuse Lacson’s son of smuggling, only that he had undervalued his cement shipments.
CeMAP chief Ernesto Ordoñez said he merely reported to Faeldon that Bonjourno declared the cost of imported cement at below $10 per ton, or lower than market prices.
He recalled that during his first 15 days in office alone, Panfilo Jr. brought in three shiploads of cement, twice at the Port of Iloilo on July 12 and 15, 2016 and one at the Port of Dadiangas on July 13, 2016, with a total value of P16 million. All were issued a warrant of seizure of detention (WSD).
Another shipment worth P24 million arrived on October 10, 2016 at the Port of Legazpi, but was not issued a WSD, because Panfilo Jr., through his lawyer, agreed to pay tariffs based on cement cost of $16 per metric ton, Faeldon said.
Faeldon said he was forced to release the three earlier shipments as part of his duty to facilitate trade, because the cement had been held for 30 days. Also, the Department of Trade and Industry did not reply to his letter asking if the document presented by Bonjourno pegging the value of cement at $8 per metric ton was genuine.
Faeldon said he found later that the document presented by the younger Lacson was fake.
“In just four shipments, Panfilo Lacson Jr. consistently wanted to pay only 50 percent of his freight cost…his lawyer submitted a fake document to try to justify [the $8 per metric ton rate],” he said.
Moreover, Bonjourno’s permit is for the importation of computer parts, not cement.
He also disclosed that Panfilo Jr. tried to bribe his staff in exchange for the release of three shiploads of cement that came in last year. The younger Lacson, he claimed, brought cash to his office to pay taxes and duties, instead of to the cashier.
“What did that mean? He is already a long-time importer, a very experienced importer. Is he trying to bribe my staff? He has to explain that also,” Faeldon added.
He said he would file criminal charges against Panfilo Jr. even as a private citizen, pointing out that under the law, undervaluing shipments by 50 percent is considered “smuggling,” and the shipment is immediately issued a WSD.
Bonjourno also violated Republic Act 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines, that requires all products to carry the label of the importing firm, he said. Panfilo Jr.’s cement imports bore the label of a different company.
The Customs chief said he was only referring to four shiploads of cement because he learned about the 63 other shipments “just this morning.”
Faeldon challenged Lacson to have his son investigated by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee headed by Sen. Richard Gordon.
Faeldon said he texted Lacson after his Wednesday privilege speech asking the senator why he smeared the reputations of people he knew were not corrupt – ex-uniformed men. There was no response.
“But yesterday, he seems to know everything in the Bureau of Customs. That’s why we can now ask him, do you know this or you’re really the one behind all this, Senator Lacson? This is your son,” Faeldon said.