The Senate wants Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to explain why his department dropped drug charges against former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other officials over the 600 kilos of the illegal drug shabu worth P6.4 billion that slipped past the Bureau of Customs last May.
However, Aguirre on Friday clarified that he has nothing to do with the findings of the panel of prosecutors that recommended the dropping of charges against Faeldon and his Customs staff.
“As of this stage, the case is still in the preliminary stage and the Office of the Secretary has still nothing to do with the proceedings there. As a matter of fact, I have not yet read the resolution of the National Prosecution Service,” Aguirre said in a text message.
Most senators were dismayed and disappointed, and some were enraged when Aguirre said Faeldon and the other custom officials linked to the smuggling of shabu from Xiamen, China, were cleared of the charges. They also expressed their continued incredulity over how the shipment slipped through the BOC without connivance from its personnel.
“Those charged were only private citizens. How did that happen since the case involved 600 kilos? It is hard to believe that this happened without the cooperation from inside,” said Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
The DoJ found probable cause to charge several others for importation of dangerous drugs, including Richard Tan, owner of the Valenzuela warehouse where the shabu shipment was found; businessman Kenneth Dong, Manny Li, admitted Customs fixer Mark Ruben Taguba II, EMT Trading owner Eirene Mae Tatad, broker Teejay Marcellana, Chen Min, Jhu Ming Jhun and Chen Rong Huan, and other unidentified individuals known only as John Doe, Jane Doe, and George Doe.
Aside from Faeldon, also cleared of the drug charges were Customs intelligence officers Joel Pinawin and Oliver Valiente, lawyers Jeleena Magsuci and Philip Maronilla, and BOC personnel Alexandra Ventura, Randolph Cabansag, Dennis Maniego, Dennis Cabildo, and John Edillor.
The Senate blue ribbon committee, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, had recommended the filing of charges against Faeldon and other BOC officials.
Pimentel said they will give the Department of Justice the chance to explain, formally or informally, how the situation developed.
“Maybe, I should just talk to Secretary Aguirre for an explanation because he’s also a party-mate. First of all, why was Faeldon not included and many of the other subordinates of Faeldon?” Pimentel said.
Liberal Party senators expressed dismay over the justice department’s decision to clear several former BOC officials.
LP president Francis Pangilinan said allies of the administration such as Faeldon are allowed to go scot-free, going after only the poor and powerless.
“What does Faeldon know that we don’t? Were they deliberately allowed off the hook so that we won’t know who are behind this enormous shipment of shabu?” questioned Pangilinan.
A DOJ panel headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes dismissed the complaint of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for conspiracy to import illegal drugs and protecting or coddling of drug traffickers under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, negligence and tolerance under Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code, and corrupt practices of public officers under Section 3 of R.A. 3019, otherwise known as Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for lack of probable cause.
The DOJ cited PDEA’s “failure to state with clarity the acts or omission supposedly committed by the above-named BOC respondents that would constitute violation of the offense charged” as basis in clearing Faeldon of the charges.
“Further, the evidence adduced by the PDEA in support of the charges were insufficient to establish probable case. Thus, the Panel is constrained to take into consideration the defense raised by the respondents,” read the resolution.
Aguirre stressed that he did not interfere in resolution by the NPS of their cases.