MANILA, Aug. 9 — A customs broker who revealed Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials allegedly involved in bribery in a House probe on the shabu shipment from China might be included in the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
This was bared by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday.
Mark Taguba, a customs broker tagged in the PHP6.4 billion shabu (crystal meth) shipment from China, admitted that BOC officials receive PHP27,000 per shipment during a congressional hearing .
“If he’s going to apply as a witness under the WPP then we have to consider. Simple lang naman at the beginning eh. You make an application, you make your affidavit and then we could give you immediately a provisional coverage but of course to be formally accepted, we have to assess the affidavits whether you are qualified or not under the WPP,” Aguirre told reporters in a chance interview in Department of Justice (DoJ).
The WPP is administered by the DOJ
WPP is a program established under Republic Act No. 6981, “The Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act”, which seeks to encourage a person who has witnessed or has knowledge of the commission of a crime to testify before a court or quasi-judicial body, or before an investigating authority, by protecting him from reprisals and from economic dislocation.
When asked if there is basis of Taguba’s inclusion in the WPP, Aguirre answered “Yes, I believe na may basis siya to apply but of course in order that–we will not jump the gun, we have the assessment of the qualification.”
The DOJ chief further stressed that WPP coverage is different from the legislative immunity granted by the House of Representatives to Taguba.
“Ours is immunity (from criminal prosecution) arising from being a witness under the WPP,” he added.
Aguirre however did not confirm reports that Taguba already submitted an application for WPP coverage before the DOJ.
During the House hearing, Taguba said five major officials of the BOC of taking bribes to facilitate his shipments the officials were Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Group Teddy Raval, Manila International Container Port (MICP) District Collector Vincent Philip Maronilla, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Neil Estrella, MICP-CIIS District Intelligence Officer Teodoro Sagaral and Import Assessment Service (IAS) Director Milo Maestrecampo.
Taguba also revealed that prior to engaging EMT Trading and two other companies in a “consignee-for-hire” scheme, he had received assurances that shipments of new importers will be able to pass through BOC’s “green lane” at the port.
Under the BOC’s computerized classification system, products imported to the country pass through four lanes, depending on the risk level: super-green, green, yellow, and red.
The shabu shipment consigned to EMT Trading passed through the green lane. Shipments tagged to pass through the green lane of the BOC are not required to undergo X-ray or manual inspection of its contents.
On Tuesday, Maestrecampo has resigned from his post after his name was dragged into the controversy. (PNA)