RESIGNED Bureau of Customs (BOC) Chief Nicanor Faeldon has questioned the Department of Justice's (DOJ) jurisdiction over the drug-related charges filed against him by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in relation to the shipment of shabu from China worth P6.4-billion.
During the preliminary investigation Thursday, Faeldon's legal counsel manifested before the panel of prosecutors led by Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes that the Office of the Ombudsman has the sole jurisdiction to hear the complaints filed against Faeldon.
Faeldon and 11 other BOC officials are facing complaints for violation of the Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, particularly conspiracy to import illegal drugs and coddling drug traffickers.
They were also charged for graft, obstruction of justice under Presidential Decree 1829 and negligence and tolerance under Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code.
"This DOJ investigating panel, with all due respect, has no primary jurisdiction to conduct the preliminary investigation of the offenses and felonies alleged by the complainant PDEA were committed by Mr. Faeldon, an SG30 and those offenses or felonies were also allegedly committed in relation to Mr. Feldon's office," the motion filed by Faeldon's camp stated.
Faeldon through his lawyer, Jose Diño Jr., has asked the panel to resolve first their motion to dismiss the charges for lack of jurisdiction before the panel continues hearing the complaints.
"It is basic that any and all proceedings without jurisdiction are null and void, such as this jurisdictional challenge should first be resolved by this DOJ investigating panel before commencing the preliminary investigation," said the motion.
Prosecutor Reyes, reacting to the motion cited the DOJ's earlier stance on the motion filed by detained Senator Leila de Lima, wherein it maintained its position that the DOJ has jurisdiction to investigate officials even if their salary grade is above 27.
Reyes, however, said they will still look into the motion if there are fresh arguments raised.
When asked if he will still cooperate with the DOJ's probe even if it junks his motion, Faeldon answered in the affirmative.
Aside from Faeldon, the alleged middleman into the shipment, Kenneth Dong and Customs Intel Chief Neil Estrella also attended the hearing.
Dong is charged by the PDEA along with nine other respondents Manny Li, Kenneth Dong, Mark Taguba II, Teejay Marcellana, Eirene May Tatad, Emily Dee, Chen I-Min, Jhu Ming Jyun and Chen Rong Juan for the importation of illegal drugs.
The PDEA likewise charged Hong Fei Logistics' officers: Genelita Arayan, Dennis Nocom, Zhang Hong, Rene Palle, Richard Rebistual and Mary Rose de la Cruz for violation of Section 30 or the criminal liability of officers of partnerships, corporations under Republic Act 9165.
The panel has given all the respondents until October 19 to submit their respective counter-affidavits.
Meanwhile, PDEA is given five days to file its comment to Faeldon's motion.
The BOC shabu scandal has prompted Faeldon to resign in the middle of the Senate hearings into the shabu smuggling in the BOC last August.
This was after he was accused by Senator Panfilo Lacson to be one of the major recipients of the "tara system" at the BOC, to which he denied. (SunStar Philippines)