BUREAU of Customs broker Mark Taguba on Monday named several officials of the bureau who allegedly received bribe money to ease shipment of goods into the country.
Taguba made the disclosure at the resumption of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Dangerous Drugs on the P6.4 billion worth of shabu transported to the country, chaired by Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, even as those he identified denied the allegations.
But the Bureau of Customs said no Filipino was involved in the shipment of the 605 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu” worth P6.5 billion discovered in a warehouse in Valenzuela city based on the report by the China’s General Administration of Customs, the subject of the investigation by Congress.
Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon said Zhang Xiaohui, head of the International Enforcement Cooperation Division- Anti-Smuggling Bureau of GACC, issued a letter giving assurances there was no other drug shipment of the illegal drug to the Philippines during that period.
“We hereby certificated [sic] that no Filipino citizen was detected by ASB to be involved in the drug smuggling and that based on our intelligence, there was only one shipment of drug destined for the Philippines and no other shipment was related to this case,” Zhang wrote.
Zhang congratulated the BoC’s Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Service headed by Director Neil Estrella for its prompt action on the intelligence information relayed by China on May 26, 2017.
He said the information was relayed to “Mr Rainier,” reportedly Estrella’s chief of staff, requesting quick action on the matter.
In other developments from the BoC:
The 28 athletes hired as “technical assistants” Faeldon may face technical malversation and falsification of public document cases for receiving salary not sourced from the annual General
At the resumption of the congressional hearing on the shipment of the P6.4 billion worth of shabu conducted by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Dangerous Drugs, Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso warned the athletes could be held criminally liable for not doing any intelligence work for the BoC.
“If [we can establish that here, you will be] guilty under direct participation [of technical malersation],” Veloso told lawyer Mandy Anderson, Faeldon’s chief of staff, after the BoC claimed the source of athletes’ salary came from the bureau’s professional services under the maintenance and other operating expenses which does not carry the word “athletes.”
House majority floor leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas agreed with Veloso on the irregularities of their employment at the bureau.
Fariñas was dismayed with Anderson’s statement in defending the employment of the athletes as intelligence officers who were required to submit daily time record for them to get their salary although the contract does not require them.
“What would the offense committed be? A DTR is a public document, isn’t it ma’am [Anderson]? It’s falsification of public documents Mandy?” Fariñas asked Anderson when she replied “yes your honor.”
“And you’re [Anderson] a party to falsification of public documents. You’re a lawyer, you should have argued with your HR [Human Resource], we should not let these people sign DTR because it’s not true, it’s false and that’s a serious offense ma’am. But since HR people are not lawyers, it happens here sometimes, I teach [House] Secretary General or whatever office, you can’t do that, it would be illegal,” Fariñas said.
During the congressional investigation, Estrella said he validated the said information and immediately formed a team of agents to raid the warehouse in Valenzuela city where the shipment landed.
Taguba identified Customs deputy commissioner Teddy Raval, Manila International Container Port district collector Vincent Maronilla, MCIP Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service district intelligence officer Teodoro Sagaral, a deceased Major Gutierrez, CIIS director Neil Estrella, Import and Assessment Service director Milo Maestrecampo; and a certain Maita Acevedo and Jayson, as recipients of the alleged tara or grease money.
Prior to naming names, Taguba told lawmakers he was paying the following amounts called “tara” or grease money per container worth a total of P27,200.
He gave the following list to lawmakers: P2,000 to the Customs’ Intelligence Group, through a certain “Gerry” who collects the money; P3,000 to the port collector; P1,000 , Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group; P500, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service Director; P500, CIIS district collector; P500, Enforcement Security Service Director; P500, ESS district director; P1,000, X-Ray unit; P200, Pier Inspection Division; P500, Formal Entry Division; P10,000, IAS; and P7,500 “for the section.”
Later on, Taguba was prompted to name names after deputy speaker and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro urged him to identify the alleged BoC officials on the take to expedite the release of goods without the need to undergo inspection by the Customs officials.
Responding to Castro’s challenge, Taguba went around the room and pointed fingers at those who allegedly received bribe.
The House Committee on Dangerous Drugs granted legislative immunity to Taguba earlier in the hearing to allow him to reveal information on the alleged corruption in the bureau.
But the BoC officials present during the hearing denied the allegations hurled against them.
“I have not met Mr. Taguba prior to this meeting. Haven’t talked [with him] or in person. Even during the start of these hearings, the power of the intelligence groups has been diluted since I assumed [office],” Raval said.
“With that, I categorically and specifically deny the allegations of Mr. Taguba,” he added.
Maronilla also made a similar accusation. “I don’t authorize anyone to collect anything for the office of district collector,” he said.
“If there is someone representing himself to be connected with the office, I welcome it, I’ll investigate it, [but] I deny the allegations that my office is getting something to facilitate shipments. I also deny I have asked anyone to collect anything in my behalf,” Maronilla added.
Estrella, for his part, said the issue wrecked their reputation as public servants even as he vowed to face his accuser at a proper forum.
“I categorically deny that I received money from Taguba. I categorically deny that I asked anyone to use my name to receive money. I will face my accuser in the proper forum,” Estrella added.
Maestrecampo, fellow former Magdalo mutineer of Faeldon, expressed willingness to quit his post, saying Taguba “already destroyed him.”
“I am not receiving money from illicit activities. I’m contented with my [salary]. What I can say, when I go back to BoC, I will step down from my appointed post. I will submit everything,” he said.
“I can probably be a rebel, but I’m not a thief,” he added, referring to his previous role in the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny.
Sagaral said nobody has accused him of any wrongdoing in his 44 years of service.
Faeldon failed to attend the hearing due to a “dental emergency.”
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said Faeldon should give priority to the congressional probe over his dental appointment.
Deputy Speaker and Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo also expressed displeasure over Faeldon’s absence, saying the Boc Chief “must stop hiding under the skirt of his chief of staff [lawyer Mandy Anderson].”
“Less than a heart attack, he should show up. He’s a soldier,” Quimbo said.
On the case of the athletres hired as “consultants,” Fariñas said he would not recommend the filing of criminal charges against the athletes since they were just victims.
Former professional basketball player EJ Feihl admitted in the hearing that he had no DTR and had been working in the field.
Feihl also admitted before lawmakers that they had done nothing yet in relation to intelligence gathering after one year in the service.
Kenneth Duremdes said the BoC hired him as “technical assistant for special activities.”
Anderson bared in the hearing that the contracts of the athletes that expired last December had not been renewed.
“As of now none of the contracts have been renewed,” said Anderson.
Other athletes hired by BoC include Marlou Aquino, Dave Arguelles, Dante Canaway, Parley Tupas, Sherwin Meneses and Allysa Valdez.
The documents showed that Berzon Franco is with the assessment and operations coordinating group while Michael Anthony Sumalinog is with the Import Assessment Service which is headed by Dir. Milo Maestrecampo.
Assigned in the intelligence group are Edward Joseph Feihl, Ronjay Enreli, Gherome Ejercito, Bong dela Cruz, Ed Bundoc, Mark Mabazza, Rizal Vonn Ignacio, Samuel Ignacio, Martin Llagoso, Carl Bryan Vitug, Danielle Michiko-Castaneda, Menchie Tubiera, Andrea Marzan, Rizza Jane Mandapat, Jonalyn Ibisa, Fenela Risha Emnas, Joshua Esguerra, Jonah Joy Corpuz and Cyrine Gonzaga.