THE Palace has supported Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s move to investigate Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile on his alleged involvement in smuggling activities in Port Irene and the unabated issuance of gaming licenses to foreign companies to elude regulation, all under the auspices of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).
Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office expressed such sentiments three days after Santiago went spitfire mode and accused Enrile of being the King of Smuggling. Santiago said that CEZA, which was established by a law authored by Enrile, has always defied the Philippine law that bans importation of used cars.
“The Justice Secretary is mandated to probe any incident where there is violation of our laws, across all government agencies. She won’t be restrained from doing so because the President is confident of Secretary de Lima’s capability to do so,” de Lima said.
In her privilege speech, Santiago said that despite the ban, car traders imported some 5,400 vehicles contained in 18 shipments in 2012, while a Japanese cargo ship set off for Port Irene, with a shipment of Hummers, Porches, BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, and other used luxury cars in February 2013.
As a result, Santiago claimed that the government refused to issue clearance for registration of the shipments and thus, CEZA was forced to re-export 600 used cars.
Further, Santiago said that CEZA has awarded a “master license” to First Cagayan to operate internet gaming—which First Cagayan to issue seven-year licenses to foreign entities to operate online gambling.
This developed despite the fact that only the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation has the only mandate under the law to operate legal gambling in the country.
Enrile is already facing plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly pocketing kickbacks in connection with the P10 billion PDAF mess.
“No matter how devilish his power and no matter how fabulous his ill-gotten wealth, I refuse to be coerced by Enrile! Justice should be done, though the heavens fall. I am fortified by my faith,” Santiago thundered. LLANESCA T. PANTI