By HANNAH TORREGOZA
Embattled Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon yesterday admitted that corruption persists in the bureau and that he had been trying to stamp out the practice of giving “grease money” for the easy release of shipments.
Faeldon told the Senate blue-ribbon committee that he “felt alone in the fight.”
“The appointment of the officers in charge of the investigation was just in January and December (2016). So for the first six months, I was working alone. I cannot – it’s very impossible for me to man more than 30 collection ports all over the country and then at the same time, conduct an investigation on all these,” Faeldon said in reply to a question by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
The committee, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, is investigating the P6.4-billion illegal drug shipment from China that was spirited out of Customs.
Faeldon initially refused to respond to Trillanes’ question but eventually relented when Gordon intervened and warned him that he could be cited for contempt if he refuses to answer.
Trillanes had accused Faeldon of being at the heart of the shabu shipment that came from China and which ended up in a warehouse owned by Chinese trader Richard Tan.
Faeldon said he would not “allow anybody to propound lies on innocent people while this investigation is ongoing.”
“I was the only one appointed late last year and then the people I have worked with there are the people I suspect to do all this ‘tara’, so how can I disseminate them to be the one conducting the investigation your honor?” he pointed out.
“Tara” is the practice of giving grease money.
Faeldon said he has encouraged all the chamber of commerce and industries and all existing importers to provide names of those who are asking for grease money.
“But until today, they have not come up with a name of an official of this bureau who is asking for ‘tara’,” Faeldon said.
“I’d like to investigate, your honor, but you know if you’re alone, in an environment like that, can you imagine (how hard it is) your honor? I want to investigate, I want to find out who these people are,” he pointed out.
Interviewed after the hearing, Faeldon said he finds it difficult to see the good guys in the BoC “being persecuted.”
“Nakita nyo tumulo ’yung luha ko, bakit? Kasi the good guys in the bureau are being persecuted,” Faeldon said.
Faeldon said Trillanes kept telling “these preposterous stories to different media in the past several days and has apparently made a conclusion already.”
“I do not allow it. You know there are a lot of good guys in the bureau. Innocent people have been hurt by these baseless accusations of so many people. And we have this storyteller? Magtatanong tanong ka dyan? Do you expect me to even answer him?” Faeldon asked.
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