MANILA - Sen. Richard Gordon on Tuesday ordered Chinese businessman Richard Chen to submit his phone records to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee as the panel continued to investigate alleged corruption at the Bureau of Customs following the bust of a P6.4-billion drug shipment from China.
Gordon's directive stemmed from apparent inconsistencies between Chen's affidavit and his statements at the hearing.
Chen, who owns the Valenzuela City warehouse where the drug shipment was found, initially told the Gordon-led committee that he received a call from China's Customs Police named Wang Zi Dong around 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. on May 25, the day of the bust.
It was Dong who had allegedly told Chen that the shipment contained illegal drugs.
"Sabi daw 'yung 5 cylinders 'wag daw i-deliver dahil 'yung nagpadala nahuli na sa China," said an interpreter for Chen, who spoke mostly in Chinese at the hearing.
Chen said he believed that Wang was a police officer because he was supposedly in the Xiamen office of his shipping company, Hong Fei.
"'Yung wife daw po niya, nasa Xiamen office nila. Si Wang Zi Dong, pumunta doon suot 'yung Customs uniform with accompanying ID," the interpreter said for Chen.
Chen then claimed it was his wife who called him to inform him of Wang's presence in their office.
"Nag-transfer daw po ng tawag… Si wife daw po niya ang tumawag sa kaniya," the interpreter said.
This, said Gordon, was not mentioned in Chen's affidavit.
"Nagsisinungaling ka. Hindi ka tinawagan ng asawa mo. Ang tumawag sa’yo, si Wang Zi Dong kaagad," the senator told the businessman.
Chen said he could not remember the events, if it was Wang or his wife who called him, but added that they were "transferring" the phone between them.
"That’s what you say now, but your affidavit speaks for itself. Napaka-material nun. Bakit mo kakausapin ang isang pulis na hindi mo kilala at magsasabi sa’yo ang pulis tapos susunod ka? Hindi ba dapat sabihin ng asawa mo, ‘Ako ito, andito yung pulis. Puwede ka ba niya makausap?’ Di mo nilagay sa affidavit 'yun," said Gordon.
The lawyer who penned Chen's affidavit said the businessman intimated to him that it was Wang who called.
Gordon also grilled Chen on how he was able to confirm to Wang that the shipment has arrived in the Philippines.
"Bumalik daw muna siya sa warehouse and then chineck 'yung printing cylinders kung nandiyan," the interpreter said.
Chen said he was not in the office when Wang called him, and initially told lawmakers that he was at home in Parañaque. He later said he might have been in Ongpin (street in Manila's Chinatown) then.
His interpreter said Chen could no longer remember the sequence of events.
"Mr. Chen, I’m trying to be fair with you. I don’t want you telling us lies here. Binabase ko sa affidavit mo lahat ng ito, affidavit na nakalagay dito," said Gordon.
Gordon's committee is looking into the entry of 600 kgs of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) from China to Manila, which supposedly slipped past Customs' green lane, where there are less stringent security checks compared to the red and yellow lanes.
Acting on a tip from China, authorities eventually found the drug shipment in Chen's warehouse in Valenzuela City.
The incident has led to a custom's broker's revelations on deeply entrenched corruption within the bureau. Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon has since resigned, with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Isidro Lapeña named to take his place.