By Ellson Quismorio
Bureau of Customs (BOC) broker Mark Ruben Taguba II, the “star witness” in the drug smuggling scandal that has rocked the agency, can’t expect his legislative immunity from the House of Representatives to save him against all charges.
In a radio interview Sunday, Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Barbers said the House committee on dangerous drugs would push for the filing of criminal charges against Taguba, who grabbed headlines by implicating BOC officials in the clandestine shipment of P6.4- billion worth of “shabu” into the country in May.
What charges does committee chairman Barbers have in mind, exactly?
“Nirekumendahan natin na ma-filan ng charges for violation ng Section 4 ng RA 9165, ‘yong importation of dangerous drugs. Of course yong smuggling kasama (We’ve recommended the filing of charges for violation of Section 4 of Republic Act 9165, the importation of dangerous drugs. Of course smuggling is included),” he told DZBB.
RA 9165 is also known as the Dangerous Drug Act of 2002. Barbers said these recommendations are spelled out in the committee report on the smuggling of the P6.4-billion shabu, which his panel probed in aid of legislation.
It can be recalled that before Taguba linked the BOC officials to the smuggling issue during the committee inquiry, he was first granted legislative immunity by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
But Barbers said such immunity could only do so much to shield him from charges.
“Yong na-grant na legislative immunity ay para doon sa testimonya na binigay nya doon sa hearing na hindi siya pwedeng ma-filan ng plunder or libel by anyone. Yong kanyang participation don sa crime of smuggling and importation ay hindi pwedeng mawala yon (The legislative immunity is to protect him from anybody who could file plunder or libel charges based on his testimony. His participation in the crime of smuggling and importation can’t disappear),” he said of Taguba.
Barbers said Taguba, a fixer for shipments entering the BOC, isn’t absolved from his participation in the act of bribing officials as well as the importation of cargo that contains illegal drug.
Taguba earlier claimed that he didn’t know the particular shipment from consignee EMT Trading contained the large cache of shabu. The items were declared as kitchen equipment.
“Let him defend that in court. Ang punto namin, pa-file namin ang kasong ito, depensahan mo ang sarili mo (Our point is, we would file this case, so defend yourself),” the Mindanao lawmaker said.
Barbers said they are also eyeing perjury raps against Taguba.
Barbers said: “Yong perjury, kasi kung napansin ninyo yong testimonya ni Mark Taguba at nong ibang private individuals sa hearing ng House at hearing ng Senate ay mayroong pagkakaiba. Merong tinatago siguro kaya naisipan namin na pa-filan ng perjury case din yan (As for perjury, if you noticed the testimony given by Mark Taguba and the other private individuals during House and Senate hearings are different. Maybe they’re hiding something that’s why we’ve also filing a perjury case against them).”
“Barber further justified the imminent criminal raps against customs broker by saying: “Hindi naman lingid sa kaalaman na lulusot ang mga kargamento dahil meron silang nilalagyan. Meron silang bina-bribe na opisyales sa Bureau (It’s common knowledge that cargoes get it because of payoffs. They are bribing officials in the Bureau).”
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