Faeldon confirms meeting with Rody son-in-law, but...

By Jess Diaz

MANILA, Philippines — Resigned Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon yesterday confirmed meeting with President Duterte’s son-in-law Manases Carpio at his Port Area office in Manila.

“I met with Mans (Carpio), who is my brother in the fraternity, only once, not five times (as alleged by opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV),” Faeldon told ANC.

Carpio is the husband of Duterte’s daughter Sara, the mayor of Davao City.

Trillanes claimed that Davao City Vice Mayor and presidential son Paolo Duterte as well as Carpio are behind the Davao group that peddles influence and facilitates the release of shipments at Customs for a fee.

Their names came up after importer-broker Mark Taguba alleged that he has turned over millions, including a P5-million enrollment fee, to persons claiming to represent Paolo and Carpio, but insisted that he has never met the two.

Faeldon said Carpio met with him about his client’s problem with an area in the Customs zone where he had a contract and where shipments were supposed to be examined.

“This was discontinued by one of my predecessors. Since they informed me that the case was already in court, I told them I could not do anything about it. Manse didn’t ask for any favor,” he said.

The President has defended Carpio’s meeting with Faeldon and other officials, saying there was nothing irregular about them.

“I do not apologize for him because he’s a lawyer. And every lawyer knows that. That’s our job. The richer the client, the better. So you can die early – die early or retire early…it is perfectly all right for him to see anybody,” Duterte said.

He added that Carpio has been lawyering for tobacco firm Mighty Corp. “long before.”        

In his television interview, Faeldon also said he would not show up in any future hearings of the Senate and the House of Representatives on issues involving corruption at the Bureau of Customs and the May 23 smuggling of P6.4-billion worth of shabu through the Manila international container port.        

“I would rather go to jail. I am questioning the constitutionality of their investigations. They have already judged and convicted us of receiving bribes. They have violated our basic rights, they have destroyed us,” Faeldon reasoned.

He said Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, who chairs the House committee on dangerous drugs, called for his resignation even before his panel’s inquiry could start.

“Their investigation is biased, they just wanted me out. That was the bottom line, and now I’m out,” Faeldon added.

Reached for comment, Barbers said, “I asked for his resignation because of his incompetence, to spare the President from further embarrassment.”

Before Barbers launched his inquiry, Faeldon and his chief of staff Mandy Anderson incurred the ire of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for their rejection of his request for the promotion of a certain Customs officer Sandy Sacluti.

Anderson claimed that a staff of the Speaker told her Alvarez would “bring hell” to her and her boss. The Speaker denied making the threat.

At the Senate, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Faeldon continues to display his ignorance of the law by questioning the legislative immunity enjoyed by members of Congress.

In a statement, Lacson noted how Faeldon has repeatedly shown how he does not know what he is talking about when it comes to provisions of the law.

“This Faeldon never ceases to amuse me. After displaying ignorance of the provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines imposing zero tariff on cement importation to the Philippines from another ASEAN country under AFTA, he is now calling for a review of the legislative immunity granted to the senators and congressmen, not understanding that it is a constitutional provision which says, ‘No Member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof’,” Lacson said. 

Faeldon earlier dared Lacson to file a case against him in relation to his claims that he received P100 million as pasalubong or welcome gift when he entered the BOC and that he was on the take just like almost every other official and employee of the agency.

He also said that Lacson was hiding behind legislative immunity by making his allegations at the halls of the Senate.

“I would like the correct institution to review the limitations of privilege speeches. Because you are covering under the cloak of immunity. How many families will be destroyed, innocent families will be maligned?” Faeldon said.

Earlier, he responded to Lacson’s claims by saying the senator’s son Panfilo Lacson Jr. was involved in the smuggling of cement.

Meanwhile, Wilkins Villanueva, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief for the National Capital Region, said he was invited to become the BOC Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) director.

Villanueva told The STAR that newly installed BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, his former PDEA boss, invited him to take the post, replacing Niel Estrella whose unit bungled the seizure of the P6.4-billion shabu shipment.

If appointed, Villanueva, who earlier complained about the BOC’s mishandling of the shipment, said he would plug the illegal drug problem at the ports and prevent its entry into the country.

He added he is willing to move to the BOC but noted that it would still depend on the President.

“During the Senate and congressional inquiries, my perception on how the bulk of the illegal drugs enter the country changed. The PDEA and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have been chasing after these illegal drugs from the bottom, when the illegal drugs can be stopped from the top… So I am thinking that may be I could be of help (at the BOC),” said Villanueva, an anti-drugs advocate for 16 years.

The fight against illegal drugs was one of the main campaign slogans of Duterte when he ran for president last year.

Villanueva said that while his expertise is on illegal drugs, he is also experienced in anti-terrorism and anti-kidnapping since he previously worked as an intelligence officer of the National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force (Naktaf) for the entire Mindanao region. 

“I think I was effective at the PDEA because of my background in intelligence and investigation. So wherever I will be assigned, it will be the same. It is just a matter of what will you focus on in your investigation,” he said.

If he would be assigned to head the CIIS, Villanueva said he would not automatically reshuffle his men. “In all of my assignments, I work with people that I have. I want them to prove their worth.” – With Evelyn Macairan, Marvin Sy

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