SENATORS on Thursday expressed their dismay over the decision of the Justice department to clear former Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other officials in connection with a P6.4-billion shabu ,shipment from China.
According to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, many of those who took part in hearings conducted by the Senate and the House of Representatives on drug smuggling at the Customs bureau were shocked and angered by the decision.
Lacson, who in a privilege speech accused Faeldon of receiving “payoffs” during his stint at the bureau, insisted that it is impossible for the drug shipment to reach its destination in a warehouse in Valenzuela City without the participation and complicity of Customs personnel.
“Simple logic will tell us that at the very least those under whose watch the drug shipment passed through should be held criminally liable as well,” said Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.
Lacson said he is still hoping that the Department of Justice (DoJ) would have a different take on the case once it is subjected to review.
Apart from Faeldon, also cleared by the DoJ were former Customs directors Milo Maestrecampo and Neil Estrella and intelligence officer Joel Pinawin, among others.
They were earlier named by Customs “fixer” Mark Taguba as among those who allegedly benefited from the tara (payoff) system at the BoC.
Minority Senators Francis Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th noted that it is highly unlikely for the officials of the BoC to be unaware of such huge drug shipment.
Pangilinan said the findings of the DoJ were unreliable and that it would be better if the Office of the Ombudsman stepped in.
“We can already see the pattern here and it is clear that the DoJ is not looking for justice,” he added.
Aquino was also surprised to learn that the findings of the DoJ wwere contrary to a draft report of the Senate blue ribbon committee recommending that cases be filed against Customs officials, led by Faeldon.
He said the Senate committee was able to clearly establish that the drug shipment cannot enter and be released by the BoC without the knowledge of the bureau’s officials.
Blue ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon partly agreed with the DoJ’s findings particularly in clearing Faeldon but raised the need to further investigate Maestrecampo and Estrella.
Gordon said evidence obtained by the committee showed that Maestrecampo provided aid in allowing the shipment of drugs to enter the country smoothly through the “green” lane.
Estrella, he said, was the one who botched the drug seizure operations, which were not coordinated with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
“It is still premature insofar as of the rest of the cases go. Customs officials may still be held liable on the tara by committing bribery and other laws under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” Gordon added.
Meanwhile, Faeldon’s lawyer Jose Dino said his client would not ask the Senate for his release despite the DoJ ruling.
Faeldon is still detained at the Senate for his refusal to cooperate with the committee and attend the hearings.
“This is to send a message to the public that nobody has to be investigated in aid of persecution and of one senator, in aid of obsession,” Dino said.