Lacson to dig deeper into shabu mess at BOC

SENATOR Panfilo Lacson said Monday that he is determined to dig deeper into the anomalies at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), which allegedly involves resigned Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

He stressed that the diversionary tactics played by those benefitting from the "tara" or bribe system in the Bureau of Customs will not affect him nor will he succumb to any pressure.

This after self-confessed Customs fixer Mark Taguba revealed in the blue ribbon hearing that there were 20 crates and not five that went into Valenzuela City warehouse owned by Richard Chen alias Richard Tan.

During the continuation of the blue ribbon committee hearing chaired by Senator Richard Gordon on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China, Taguba revealed how the tara were being distributed to several BOC officials as he claimed to have paid a total amount of P92 million to tara recipients in the BOC since he started the business last August 2016.

Taguba maintained his innocence in the controversial shipment of more than 600 kilograms of shabu worth P6.4-billion from China which slipped through the BOC, as he presented several documents including text conversations to his alleged cohorts in the bureau.

Through a PowerPoint presentation, Taguba bared call logs and series of text messages on the controversial "tara or bribe system" showing requests that involved top officials in the Bureau of Customs.

Taguba also revealed that Joel Pinawin, ex-intel Chief Neil Estrella, and former soldier Milo Maestrecampo from the AIS, were recipients of bribes in the BOC.

Another form of facilitation was to go on voluntary upgrade, Taguba said, which will require importers to pay the additional tax to have their shipment facilitated quickly and with no delay in processing in the BOC.

Pinawin who was present during the hearing was positively identified by Taguba as one of those calling and texting him for the tara in the BOC.

Lacson said it is very clear that the BOC under former commissioner Faeldon has been using their position for their own personal gain.

In his presentation, Taguba presented several bank statements and messages including cheques that have been issued to several BOC officials.

Distribution of bribes at the BOC, Taguba said is a normal daily practice as he narrated that he distributed an amount of P489,600 to at least 12 customs offices during a two-week period in March and April this year.

New Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña admitted before the investigating panel that the tara system is real.

Lapeña said he gave everyone in the BOC a fair warning that they would be fired at the first instance of accepting bribe money.

Lapeña who replaced Faeldon admitted some were complying but he is still monitoring the movement inside the BOC and how he can make a stop to the so-called 3'0 clock habit where the tara is being distributed among BOC employees three times a week.

Meanwhile, Senate blue ribbon committee Senator Richard Gordon said he cannot force Faeldon if he does not want to testify saying the Senate has already detained him but recognizes that he has his constitutional right to refuse to answer any questions from the panel.

"We cannot force him to testify. We have to respect his constitutional right. Hindi natin siya pwede puwersahin," Gordon told reporters.

Lacson, for his part, said he has in his possession documents that will prove the existence of bribery under the leadership of Faeldon in the BOC. (SunStar Philippines)


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