• Suspended Customs official to testify
    in House probe on ‘shabu’ shipment

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    AN embattled Customs official linked to the controversy surrounding P6.4-billion worth of illegal drugs will testify at the House of Representatives when it resumes its inquiry on Wednesday, an official said.

    Larribert Hilario, who was suspended for allegedly failing to mark the “shabu” shipment that passed through the Bureau of Customs as contraband, will be presented later to “clarify things”, said Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte.

    Fariñas hinted that Hilario was on the right side of things.

    “They say he is under suspension, but there is no such thing as verbal suspension [order]. You issue a preventive suspension when there is a pending investigation. You can’t just tell the person you are suspended,” Fariñas added.

    Hilario’s testimony comes a day after lawmakers took turns calling for the resignation of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon over what legislators claimed was an illegal raid in Valenzuela City last May 26 which led to the seizure of the P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs.

    READ: Faeldon stays

    Lawmakers and even the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) accused Faeldon of bungling the raid as it violated the Dangerous Drugs law which mandates PDEA to “take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals seized, confiscated or surrendered to any national, provincial or local law enforcement agency, if no longer needed for purposes of evidence in court.”

    In his defense. Faeldon invoked the Customs Modernization and Tariff law, which provided that Customs officials “may, at any time, enter, pass through, and search any land, enclosure, warehouse, store, building or structure not principally used as a dwelling house.”

    The P6.4 billion “shabu” was shipped by Hongfei Philippines from Guandong, China to EMT Trading. After bypassing Customs, the shipment was temporarily stored in a warehouse in Paso de Blas, Valenzuela before Philippine authorities were tipped by their Chinese counterparts of the contraband that led to its seizure last May 26.

    Before his suspension, Hilario served as a risk management officer of the Bureau of Customs. Hongfei Philippines, on the other hand, was able to ship in 600 containers to the country labeled general merchandise or kitchen utensils, the same label that was found on the shipment containing the illegal drugs.  In addition, 90 percent of shipment for EMT Trading had been passing through the “privileged” green lane since March.

     

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