Faeldon questions DOJ jurisdiction on hearing drug cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 5) — Former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon on Thursday questioned the jurisdiction of the Justice Department on hearing the cases against him.

During the preliminary investigation, Faeldon's lawyer filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction with the Justice Department panel.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Sept. 19 filed criminal complaints against Faeldon and several other Customs officials. The cases were filed in relation to the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China that slipped the Customs Bureau last May.

Faeldon said the investigation should have been handled by the Ombudsman which has jurisdiction over Faeldon's salary level.

It cited the Sandiganbayan law, which states that the anti-graft court has exclusive jurisdiction over cases if the public official involved is in salary grade 27 or higher.

"The Ombudsman has primary jurisdiction to investigate any act or omission of a public officer or employee who is under the jurisdiction of Sandiganbayan," it stated.

The PDEA has five days to comment on the matter.

Faeldon welcomes complaints

Faeldon said he welcomed the complaint filed by the PDEA. He had denied corruption allegations against him.

"Ito yung gusto nating mangyari. Dalhin na sa husgado kasi mahirap naman na pukol lang tayo nang pukol ng akusasyon tapos hindi mo dalhin sa husgado. Syemrpe walang hustisya," he said.

[Translation: This is what we wanted to happen. Bring the complaints in front of justice, because if it is hard when we just throw accusations without proper judgment. Of course, there's no justice there.]

Faeldon is confident the charges against him will eventually be dropped.

"Ang kinaso sa akin, conspiring to import drugs. Medyo napakagaling mo naman in four hours you can conspire. Isang imposibleng allegation," he said.

[Translation: The charge against me is conspiring to import drugs. It would've been so good if you can conspire in four hours. It's an impossible allegation.]

Emily Anoche-Dee, who owns the warehouse where the drugs were seized, denied the accusations against her.

"Wala ho talaga kaming kinalaman sir, kahit mamatay na yung buong pamilya namin. Wala ho talaga kaming kinalaman. Hindi ho kami gumagawa ng kwento," Dee said.

[Translation: We really have nothing to do with it, sir, even if our whole family dies. We really have no involvement. We're not making up stories.]

"Kung may droga ho yun sir kami mismo yung magrereklamo ay magsasabi sa PDEA o kung sinuman," she added.

[Translation: If there are drugs there, we will complain ourselves to PDEA or whoever is in charge.]

Before the hearing ended, former Customs intelligence chief Neil Anthony Estrella and Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes had an exchange.

"Your Honor, mahirap magpakulong sa isang bagay na hindi mo ginawa. Kahit siguro kayo gagawin nyo yun," Estrella said.

[Translation: Your Honor, it's hard to be detained for something you did not do. I think anyone would do that.]

"Harapin mo yan. Haharapin ko ho. Ganun. Hindi yung tatakas kayo," Reyes replied.

[Translation: Face it. I would face it. You should not escape.]

The respondents have until Oct. 19 to file their counter-affidavits.

PDEA drug charges

Faeldon and other Customs officers are facing charges of conspiracy to import illegal drugs and protecting drug traffickers.

The agency said "incompetent" and "corrupt" officials effectively shielded and facilitated the escape of Chinese national Chen Ju Long, the so-called silent architect of the scheme.

Chen Ju Long or Richard Chen is the owner of Hong Fei Logistics and the Valenzuela City warehouse where the drug shipment was sent. He denied knowing that the shipment contained illegal drugs.

The P6.4-billion shabu shipment has put the Customs Bureau in the hot seat. During the Senate's probe on the shipment, Senators criticized Customs officials for several lapses in the bureau's handling of the shipment.

This included allowing the shipment to pass the Customs' "green" express lane even as the cargo exceeded weight limits for the lane.

PDEA's complaint is separate from an earlier case filed by the National Bureau of Investigation against importers and brokers allegedly involved in the issue.

CNN Philippines' Digital Producers Ver Marcelo and Amanda Lingao contributed to this story.