MANILA - Facing his senior cavalier, Deputy Customs Commissioner Gerardo Gambala sought to clear his name.
Gambala, a former Army captain, on Thursday addressed Sen. Panfilo Lacson at a Senate hearing and denied that he had accepted bribes at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
"Senator Lacson, I still respect him as my fellow cavalier and upper classman sir, as a senator. The thing he is accusing me, sir, and some of us, the things he told about me, I cannot really do it," Gambala told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Last month, Lacson bared names of officials allegedly receiving "tara" or grease money, among them several former soldiers, including Gambala.
"I hope I could redeem my name," Gambala said.
Still, Lacson, the former captain's senior at the Philippine Military Academy, lashed out at Gambala for allegedly failing to know what's going on at the BOC command center (ComCen).
He cited messages between one Gemma Castillo and customs fixer Mark Taguba. Taguba had said he got to know Castillo, who was purportedly from ComCen, after one of his shipments triggered an alert last year.
"Walang Gemma Castillo sa ComCen," Gambala then clarified.
Lacson pointed out that alert orders were lifted after Taguba paid tara to Castillo, indicating that the fixer indeed had a contact inside.
"Ito 'yung negotiation sa tara, and if you don't know anything about the tara going on inside ComCen and you're the head of ComCen, what does that make of you?" Lacson pointed out.
Gambala stressed that there are people who use their names and offices but, the problem is, "we cannot defend it.”
"Ginagamit pangalan ninyo pero nakakalusot ang kargamento? How would you reconcile?" Lacson asked. "Sino ang kausap ni Gemma? Si Satanas?"
The senator asked Gambala to cooperate in the investigation.
"Pagka-blanket denial ka, saan makakarating ang investigation?" Lacson said.