Faeldon, Trillanes clash at Senate hearing on ₱6.4-B shabu shipment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) — Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon has answered this question many times, but when it came from Senator Antonio Trillanes, Faeldon risked being cited in contempt as he refused to respond.

"May corruption ba sa (Bureau of) Customs? (Is there corruption at the Bureau of Customs?)," Trillanes asked Faeldon on Tuesday as the Senate resumed its probe on the entry to the country of ₱6.4 billion worth of shabu from China.

Faeldon repeatedly refused to answer Trillanes, who was the first interpellate.

Instead, Faeldon said, "Preposterous stories peddled by you are all over the news in the past few days."

"I do not want to further justify your baseless accusations by answering your question, your honor," Faeldon said.

As Faeldon was speaking, Trillanes asked Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the blue ribbon committee, to "please direct the resource person to act properly." The committee is tasked with investigating cases involving public officials and government employees, and other matters of national interest.

Trillanes asked a second time, but Faeldon kept silent, and later said, "It's pointless for me to answer these questions because he has already come up with conclusions already."

Trillanes said Faeldon's statements were "offensive" not only to him but to the Senate as a body.

He admitted to telling the media Faeldon was "at the heart" of the controversy, but he said this is not tantamount to saying he was guilty.

He threatened to cite the Customs chief in contempt.

"Tinatanong kita, meron bang corruption sa Customs o wala (I am asking you, is there corruption at the Bureau of Customs or none)? Or I'll be forced to move you for contempt," the senator said.

Gordon called for a recess to personally talk to Faeldon, who appeared to be wiping tears from his eyes.

Faeldon and Trillanes were both involved in the July 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, a failed attempt to oust then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Faeldon was then a Marine captain while Trillanes was a Navy officer.

When the hearing resumed, Faeldon finally said there is corruption at the bureau and even cited some examples.

"Recently your honor our command center through the CCTVs we have installed captured three employees of the bureau receiving unauthorized money from transacting public," Faeldon said.

He said he is still investigating the alleged practice of collecting "tara" or grease money at the bureau.

Mark Taguba, a middleman who facilitates the releases of shipments through the bureau, earlier said he was paying off Customs officials to facilitate the faster release of shipments.

The Senate is investigating the 600-kilogram shabu shipment that was seized from two different warehouses in Paso de Blas and Barangay Ugong in Valenzuela City on May 26.

Customs officials failed to follow protocol when they did not immediately notify the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency of the alleged shipment, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.