A CONTRACTUAL employee of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Wednesday confirmed the "tara system" in the agency and admitted delivering money to her superiors in the BOC from customs broker Mark Taguba.
Mae Escoto, the alleged bagman of BOC intelligence officer Joel Pinawin and former Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Neil Anthony Estrella, told the Senate blue ribbon committee that she only followed her superiors when she received the money from Taguba.
Escoto, however, denied personally knowing Taguba.
She said she first met Taguba last March when he visited Panawin's office. Escoto said she led Taguba to Panawin's office where the two had a meeting. After the meeting, she said Taguba as for her mobile number so he would contact her whenever he will visit Pinawin to reduce wait time.
She said Taguba texted her several times asking about her boss and she would inform Pinawin every time the Customs fixer will ask her about him.
"Noong April 7, Friday, umaga tinawag ako ni Sir Joel sabi 'tawagan mo si Mark (Taguba) at sabihin mo na ‘yung para kay director at para sa akin.’ Nirelay ko naman pero kasi hindi naman kami close at maaga pa kaya tinext ko nalang si Mark na ‘Happy morning remind lang po ni Sir Joel ‘yung kay director at ‘yung sakanya,’” she said.
[On April 7, Friday, Sir Joel called me and told me ‘call Mark and tell him where is for director and for me.’ I relayed it to Mark and because it is still early and we are really not that close, i just texted him ‘Happy morning, let me just remind you about what’s for Sir Joel and for director]
In response, she said Taguba replied "Copy."
Escoto said that on April 12, Pinawin asked her again to send Taguba the same message to which the broker responded "next week nalang kasi cut-off. Maliit lang nakuha isahan nalang sa susunod [Will give it next week. Just got a little]."
She, however, denied being aware of what they were actually talking about noting that she just followed what her boss asked her to do.
On May 5, she said Pinawin asked her again to text Taguba.
"Sinabihan ako na tawagan si Mark at sabihin na dapat mga 12 nandito na para sakanila. Sabi ni Mark maaga pa walang mauutusan kung pwede daw padala nalang ng tao para kumuha, pinakuha sa akin," she said.
[I was told to call Mark and tell him that what they were asking for should be at their office by 12. Mark responded and said he had no one to take it to their office and if it is possible to just send someone to pick it up from his office]
Escoto said she picked-up two brown envelopes from Taguba's office in Intramuros that she believes contain the money.
She said the two envelopes were for "director" and "Sir Joel."
Escoto said she gave both of the envelopes to Pinawin.
She added that Pinawin took the SIM card of her phone last August and gave her P1,000 to buy a new one. Escoto said she tried to get her SIM card from Pinawin to recover her contact list but he refused to return it to her.
Despite Escoto's revelation, Pinawin and Estrella who both attended the Senate hearing denied receiving money from Taguba.
Pinawin said he is not aware of Escoto and Taguba's negotiations.
"Kung naguusap man sila transaction nila yan, personal nilang usapan ‘yan. Bakit ba nila ako dinadamay d’yan? Isa lang po ang maliwanag dito ano po ba ang motibo dito? May conspiracy poi tong si Mae si Mark Taguba para sirain ako dahil ako nakahuli kila Taguba sa shabu na pinarating nila," he said.
[If they are talking it's their transaction, their personal negotiation. Why are they implicating me? One thing is clear hear. There is a conspiracy between Mae and Taguba to destroy me because I was the one who intercepted their illegal shipment.]
Earlier, BOC officials including newly installed BOC commissioner Isidro Lapeña, former BOC deputy commissioner Gerardo Gambala, former BOC commissioner chief-of-staff Mandy Anderson and Pinawin confirmed that "tara" system exists in the said agency to facilitate the immediate movement of merchandise of several businessmen.
Among the shipments that pass through BOC was the P6.4-billion worth of illegal drugs from China that was recovered in a warehouse in Valenzuela City that prompted the Senate to investigate the matter. (SunStar Philippines)