MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to consider placing former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon under its witness protection program (WPP) to expose what he knew of this massive corruption within the bureau.
Drilon made this call after colleague Senator Panfilo Lacson, in a privilege speech, revealed a list of names of bribe givers or players, collectors or bagmen, recipients of bribes in BOC as well as the breakdown of amounts given.
Lacson said Faeldon was among the first to receive a bribe worth PHP100 million, a quarter of which, or PHP 25 million was retained as finder’s fee by his middleman named Joel Teves.
Drilon stressed that the DOJ should consider the revelations made by Lacson and start its own investigation into the matter.
He also said that now was the time for Faeldon to “speak up.”
“Should Faeldon decide to cooperate by revealing what he knew of this massive corruption in the customs, it is proper that he be placed under the WPP,” Drilon said in a press statement.
“The people behind this massive corruption in the customs have already been exposed. Commissioner Faeldon is the most qualified person to corroborate these claims of corruption under his watch,” he added.
Drilon said he was shocked upon hearing Lacson’s revelation but said: “it should give the Congress more resolve to address the top-down corruption in the agency.”
“It’s a shocking, disheartening revelation, but it behooves Congress to act swiftly to solve this issue of corruption in the bureau once and for all,” the senator said.
Drilon also called on the DOJ to review the testimonies made at the Senate Blue Ribbon’s investigation into the PHP 6.4-billion shabu shipment from China.
On Wednesday, Lacson said that if the Duterte administration remains committed to its war on drugs, it should also consider waging a “war on corruption” and it should start at BOC.
Lacson made this call expressing his frustration on how the BOC has apparently failed to show improvement in fighting corruption within its officials and employees — whom he described as “devils” within the bureau.
“Hell is empty and all the devils are at the Bureau of Customs,” Lacson said in his privilege speech, paraphrasing a quote by William Shakespeare.
He slammed Faeldon for his excuse that he was “helplessly alone” in eradicating corruption in his domain noting that if he should have stood firm even if he was alone.
“As head of the Bureau…Commissioner Faeldon should have started the cleansing in the Bureau by eliminating what has been corrupting the agency for so long, the ‘Tara’ (payoffs) system,” Lacson said.
However, Lacson also expressed hope that newly-appointed Customs chief Isidro Lapeña would not be “eaten by the system” as his predecessor, Faeldon.
The senator said that it was up to Lapeña to “destroy the brazen corruption” within the BOC by institutionalizing genuine reforms that would mean the abolition of the corruption system from top officials down to the last rank-and-file.
“The problems that our country is facing now, such as smuggling, fraud, and drug trafficking can effectively be lessened if we only fortify our first line of defense on border management. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to address this BOC issue head on and at its core,” Lacson said.
“If we intend to remain committed to the War on Drugs, we need a War on Corruption,” he added. (PNA)