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House gives updates on current initiatives

House leaders on Tuesday gave updates on three important issues being handled by their respective committees, specifically: the conclusion of the inquiry on the P6.4 billion shabu smuggled from China which passed through the Bureau of Customs Express Lane; the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to next year; and the committee-level approval of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

The updates were provided by committee on dangerous drugs chairman Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (2nd District, Surigao del Norte), committee on public information chairperson Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (Party-list, Bagong Henerasyon), and committee on suffrage and electoral reforms chairman Rep. Sherwin Tugna (Party-list, CIBAC).

Barbers said the committee report on the smuggling of P6.4 billion shabu is already being routed for signing by lawmakers. Among the committee's recommendations is the filing of criminal and administrative cases to all institutions that are involved based on the testimonies and documents obtained during the conduct of the hearings. The filing of criminal cases against former BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon for the violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act is among the recommendations.

Barbers said there was also the violation of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the BOC and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) with respect to the conduct of the raid at the warehouse in Valenzuela City for the seizure of the smuggled shabu.

"It's very clear in the MOA that any anti-illegal drugs operation must be coordinated with PDEA. They did not coordinate with PDEA but instead they coordinated with the National Bureau of Investigation, said Barbers.

Two, Barbers said the BOC operatives did not secure a search warrant in going to the warehouse and opening the crates containing the shabu. What they used as a basis for their opening of the crates was an LOA or letter of authority, which does not erase the power of the search warrant.

Barbers said the report also recommended that criminal cases be filed against BOC Import Assessment Service (IAS) Director Milo Maestrecampo, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Neil Estrella, Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala, and lawyer Mandy Therese Anderson.

On the part of Gambala and Maestrecampo, the recommended cases to be filed involve negligence and gross incompetence, said Barbers.

Kasi if you notice, yung kanilang testimonies noong hearing, unang una nagtuturuan (sila), di ba? Pangalawa, yung responsibility na kung sino yung dapat managot, yung may accountability dun sa pangyayaring yun e nawala yun, because they created the consent which confused the whole procedure in releasing of the cargoes,he said.

Barbers said the committee is also looking at possible planting of evidence, a violation of Section 29 of RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 which has a penalty of death if proven guilty.

Planting of evidence against Commissioner Faeldon for ordering the 100 kilos of shabu to be delivered to another warehouse kung saan nahuli iyong Fidel Anoche Dy, iyong caretaker. So, we are looking at that at the moment, he said.

Barbers said what happened was that when the operatives opened the warehouse, they saw the 600 kilos of shabu. Then they decided to bring the 100 kilos in one warehouse to catch the suspects who were there and leave the 500 kilos in one warehouse.

May ganoong method na ang tawag nila doon ay controlled delivery. And it is allowed provided that there is a clearance from the Director General of PDEA. Hindi yung bukas na, tinanggal mo na dun sa crate, saka mo ngayon dadalhin doon because the evidence will now be considered as tampered evidence. The integrity of evidence will now be in question at the court, he said.

This is why in one of the cases, the committee cited Faeldon committed bungling, a violation of RA 9165 that carries a penalty of life imprisonment, said Barbers.

The committee also came up with a recommendation on the cases of giving and acceptance of tara. These violate RA 3019 on direct bribery and corruption of public officials.

Yung pag-accept nila nung tara at saka yung pagbigay ng tara. In fact, we are also recommending dun sa private individuals like Mark Taguba, Irene Patag, TJ Marceliano, dahil inamin naman nila na they are paying some officials in the bureau para mapa-release nila yung kanilang kargamento and that is bribery and corruption,said Barbers.

Meanwhile, on proposals to postpone the Oct. 23, 2017 barangay and SK elections, Tugna said leaders of the House and Senate would likely meet and arrive at a common proposal. He said the House version seeks to reset the elections to the second Monday of May 2018 while the Senate bill wants the polls moved to October 2018.

Based on procedure, I understand that has to be threshed out by means of meeting again by the leaders of both the House and the Senate. It's already August 29, sa palagay ko, kailangan mag-meeting rin kasi kailangan mag-consolidate na ng date kung kailan talaga mapo-postpone, kung May ba or October of 2018. There is no issue between the two houses whether to postpone or to proceed (with the elections). The only issue is what date will the elections be,said Tugna.

Tugna further said it is his understanding that the Commission on Elections has already slowed down on its preparations to the point of almost stopping the printing of ballots for the elections this year.

As to the FOI bill, Herrera-Dy said the measure will institutionalize the executive order on the FOI. She said an executive order can easily be replaced every time there is a new President and that it only covers offices of the executive department.

The FOI bill is now with the committee on appropriations which will act on the funding requirements for the FOI implementation by the different government offices, she said.

Herrera-Dy said that hopefully after the House transmits the 2018 national budget to the Senate by Sept. 21, the appropriations committee can already act on the measure.

The target date is Sept. 21. So sana by next year, we could start discussing this already, she said.

Source: House of Representatives

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