Criminal raps vs broker, trader in P6.4-b shabu

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THE House dangerous drugs committee will recommend charges against officials of the Bureau of Customs, broker Mark Taguba, businessman Kenneth Dong and others who were responsible for smuggling in a P6.4-billion shipment of shabu in May.

In an interview on radio dzBB, the panel chairman Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said they also recommended charges be filed against Richard Chen, who owns the company that allegedly imported the shabu, his middleman Manny Li, the shipment consignee Eirene Tatad and Customs broker Teejay Marcellana, for violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Barbers said the committee also recommended perjury charges be filed against Taguba, who testified before the House and the Senate on the shabu shipment.

Although Taguba had been given legislative immunity to disclose what he knew about corruption at the Bureau of Customs, his testimony did not jibe with those provided by others during the hearings

Rep. Robert Ace Barbers

Direct bribery charges against Taguba are also appropriate because he admitted to bribing Customs officials to get the shabu shipment through.

In his testimony, Taguba admitted to giving P27,000 per container of shipment to Customs personnel to smooth the entry of contraband.

Barbers said legislative immunity did not mean Taguba was not liable for the illegal importation of shabu.

“The legislative immunity is limited to what he will testify about during the hearing. He can no longer be charged with plunder or libel by anyone,” Barbers said in Filipino. “But his participation in the smuggling—that cannot be wiped clean.”

The House panel is also recommending charges against former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other officials for supposedly being on-the-take in the so-called “tara system.” 

Barbers also said they recommended charges against former Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service director Neil Estrella, for violations in the conduct of the raid in a Valenzuela warehouse in May, where the shabu shipment was discovered.

“They did not secure a search warrant that they should have used to gain the authority to enter the premises,” Barbers said.

Barbers said no charges were recommended against President Rodrigo Duterte’s son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, even though Taguba dragged him into the controversy.

He said the name dropping of the vice mayor’s name was just hearsay.

We would like to emphasize that we at the committee does not entertain hearsay. We are focused on the issue of drugs. We are not here to entertain gossip. We do not give way to testimonies that are hearsay, and we do not mind those emanating from rumors,” he said.

“We asked him [Taguba] if he had personal experience dealing with the vice mayor. He told us none. So I asked again, why mention the vice mayor, and he told me that he learned about it from rumors.”

Taguba could be imprisoned for life and fined P500,000 to P10 million for violating the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Faeldon and Estrella are not off the hook, he said, adding Congress has also recommended to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to file a complaint against Dennis Siyhian and Catherine Nolasco, lawyer-investigators of National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division for failure to turn over the custody of the 500 kilos of shabu to the PDEA in violation of Dangerous Drugs Board regulations

The committee report also included the filing by the Department of Justice of falsification under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code against Faeldon’s chief of staff Mandy Therese Anderson, who signed the daily time records of several basketball and volleyball players hired by the BoC to make it appear they reported for work as technical assistants and counter-intelligence analysts.

In the wake of Senator Panfilo Lacson’s privilege speech that accused Faeldon of taking P100 million as a “welcome gift” when he became Customs commissioner, Senator Antono Trillanes IV said he wanted the Senate to investigate possible violations of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

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