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Alvarez to Faeldon: Creation of BOC command center illegal

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez today said the creation of Command Center (Comcen) in the Bureau of Customs, which is the brainchild of Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, is illegal.

At the hearing of the House Committee on Ways and Means on the smuggling of P6.4 billion-worth of shabu through the BOC, Faeldon admitted that the Comcen was created only during his time and that it was established without any administrative order from the Secretary of Finance.

Under the present setup at the BOC, only the Comcen has the authority to issue alert orders, which would allow the inspection of questionable shipments.

Oh, bakit ganyan? Kasi hindi ka pupwede gumawa ng kahit anong proseso doon kung walang administrative order coming from the Secretary of Finance. You are not authorized to do it, Alvarez said.

Faeldon cannot answer the question himself and said he would have to refer to the lawyers of his office.

O sinong bright ang nag-recommend sa iyo? Nasaan na yung mga advisers mo? Wag naman, sabihin mo na naman mamaya yung fiancee mo ha?, Alvarez said.

When nobody from the BOC dared to answer the question, Alvarez did not pursue his line of questioning.

Sige di bale na lang, okay na rin yun. Mr. Chairman, iba na lang ang magtanong, Alvarez said.

The House of Representatives has been conducting separate investigations on how the P6.4 billion shabu slipped through the BOC's green land and shipped out to a warehouse in Valenzuela City.

Shipments tagged to pass through the green lane of the BOC are not required to undergo X-ray or manual inspection of its contents.

The Valenzuela warehouse was raided days after the BOC allowed the shipment to leave its premises due to a tip from the agency's counterpart in China.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director Wilkins Villanueva testified before the House Tuesday, decrying BOC's conduct of the raid and the handling of the evidence.

Faeldon himself admitted that there were lapses in handling of the evidence.

Meanwhile, Rep. Harry Roque slammed Faeldon and the BOC officials for trying to protect warehouse owner Richard Chen whom the lawmaker said should be criminally charged for the shabu shipment.

Today for the first time I saw the documentation and as testified by Col. (Neil) Estrella, you were requested by your Chinese counterparts not to go after Chen. So parang na-confirm ngayon yung suspicion ng lahat. Eto po, I'm calling a spade a spade: you're protecting Chen, Roque said.

The solon noted that the drug shipment was found in the premises of Chen's warehouse and the bill of lading was in his favour. Besides, the papers show the firm that shipped the drugs from China is the same company that received the shabu shipment here in the Philippines.

"And you're not going after Chen because your Chinese counterparts told you not to go after Chen? I'm telling you na, the perception is you are shielding Chen, Roque said.

Talagang nililihis ninyo either, number one, pinoprotektahan si Chen; number two, yung action ninyo intended na kapag inabot si Chen, dahil walang chain of custody, matatalo ang kaso, he added.

Roque said the documents submitted to the House panel substantiate suspicions that there is really a deliberate effort to protect Chen.

Reading the BOC report on its communication with their Chinese counterpart, Roque noted that the BOC was told that the owner of the warehouse is helping them in the effort to recover the drug shipment but added: Please contact with him and promise that you will not punish him and protect him.

Other lawmakers earlier expressed a similar concern that prosecution of suspects in one of the biggest ever drug haul was jeopardized by the BOC's bungled handling of the raid.

Citing the ineptitude of BOC officials, several congressmen and senators aired calls for the resignation of Faeldon.

Apart from the drug smuggling issue, Congress is also looking at the failure of the BOC to meet its collection targets.

Source: House of Representatives

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