The spies who ended up in the cold


CUSTOMS Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon was not very helpful in shedding the proverbial light on how P6.4 billion in shabu from China was spirited through the so-called green lane in what is considered one of the most corrupt agencies of government.

When Faeldon was asked about the sneak attack on his men that resulted in the contraband ending up in a warehouse several kilometers away from the Port of Manila where it was received in May, he pointed to what he described as shameless politicians who had been lobbying him for jobs for their protégés.

He apparently did not hear the question, hence the vague answer, but it seemed satisfactory enough to the congressional investigators last week who let the Bureau of Customs (BoC) chief get away with it.

What Faeldon was really trying to say was that the politicians themselves were distracting him from his job, which was why the contraband cargo from the mainland slipped past the good guys manning the green lane. Or so he says.

When asked during the continuation of the hearings about his hiring of former players from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the Customs commissioner hemmed and hawed before finally declaring that apart from bringing the bureau closer to the public, they were contracted for technical work or intelligence gathering.

Something about that reasoning doesn’t click. How can you expect the likes of Marlou Aquino and Kenneth Duremdes to be chummy with Filipinos, including the basketball fanatics among the unscrupulous shippers who go through or evade Customs, and at the same time, as spies, they should keep their distance from their targets?

The ex-PBA cagers have no known training in intelligence work to qualify for the posts, and preparing them just now for such training may be too late for the intel demand at hand at the bureau.

Faeldon was a no-show at another hearing this week, sending word to the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs that he had an appointment with his dentist.

The committee had better demand from the Customs chief proof that he had a tooth or two extracted, or his absence might be construed as an indication of flight from taking responsibility for the smuggled shabu that got away.

It seems like the former PBA greats are being fed to the lions, thanks to their naivete and cluelessness on how or why they became government employees.

Duremdes, Aquino and their fellow former PBA cagers must now realize that it is altogether a different ballgame when bureaucrats and politicians mix it up on live television.

Their presumed fans in the Customs bureau and the House of Representatives are now their interrogators and people like Duremdes and company who were used to receiving fans’ adulation now risk becoming failed government servants whose covers have been blown by wily political players.

It is not easy being on the receiving end of the brickbats.

With the ball in the hands of those who make resource persons in legislative hearings cringe in fright, whatever legacy these PBA players left their fans when they called it a day from Asia’s first professional basketball league is being shattered.

The ball is round but it can be made rounder for the wrong reasons and motives by those who will not own up to wrongdoing or culpability and who betray their responsibilities to their official duties and the people.


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