Faeldon claims Drilon, Sotto sought him for 'illegal requests'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 29) — Former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon named two senators who asked him for an "illegal request" when he was still Customs chief.

During the resumption of the Senate hearing on corruption at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Monday, Faeldon said he denied the requests of Senator Franklin Drilon and Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto.

"As early as 2016, he (Drilon) has requested me to meet with him here in the Senate twice, and asked me to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the BOC and the office of Ms. Maria Serena Diokno, the chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP)," Faeldon said.

He said according to the MOA, the Customs house in Iloilo will be renovated for the NHCP and converted into a museum, leaving only the third floor as the BOC office.

Faeldon said he refused to sign the MOA as the same situation happened during the Arroyo administration when employees of the BOC office in Cebu were placed in a "condemned building."

As for Sotto, he said it was about appointing an official as a favor.

"Twice, personally here, he asked me to appoint one official of the Bureau of Customs as the director of intelligence," Faeldon said. "I said, 'Sir, titignan natin,' then I interviewed the official."

He then named the official as senior intelligence officer Eric Albano, who Faeldon said has not caught any corrupt employee in his 42 years in service.

Gordon said there was nothing questionable with the requests of Drilon, who merely wanted to preserve a historical site, and Sotto who recommended a person for public office in the course of his role as senator.

This was the first time Faeldon attended the Senate hearing on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment and corruption in the BOC.

He was detained in the Senate on September 10 after refusing a summons to appear at the inquiry. He remains under Senate custody even after President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him deputy administrator for operations at the Office of Civil Defense on December 22.

READ: Senate grants furlough to Faeldon

During the hearing, Faeldon also had a heated exchange with Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Richard Gordon over his detention, as the senator threatened to again cite Faeldon in contempt over his demeanor and remarks.

Gordon said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has unanimously decided to transfer Faeldon to the Pasay City Jail over his behavior.

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña was also present at the inquiry.

Lapeña revealed that since he took office in August 2017, he implemented reforms to stop corruption in the BOC, including the abolition of the Command Center, which centralizes coordination and monitoring of imports and exports; the removal of the green lanes so all shipments would undergo X-ray inspection; and the regulation and review of licensed brokers.

He added while the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service identified nine private individuals in the alleged payoff or "tara" system, there were no Customs officials or employees on the list.

The hearing will resume on February 8.