MANILA - Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Thursday said his fellow former mutineer, Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, could have stopped the entry of P6.4-billion worth of shabu into the country.
Trillanes reiterated Faeldon is "at the heart" of the controversy concerning the Bureau of Customs, after the latter refused to answer his questions during the last Senate hearing because of supposed pre-judgment.
"Had he said no to this transaction or shipment, he could have stopped this from being released to the public. He cannot say that these things happened because of some unscrupulous or incompetent subordinates," Trillanes told ANC's Early Edition.
"He was there at Customs for the past year. He said that he's well aware of the modes of corruption and his alibi was for the first six months that he didn’t have anybody along with him, that he was alone, and that [it was] only [in] January that his team was appointed," he said.
Trillanes said he will be showing documents in the succeeding hearings "to show how Faeldon lied to the committee and to the public in terms of his statements that he was alone that’s why he couldn’t do anything in the first 6 months."
The Senate and the House of Representatives are separately investigating the shipment from China, which contained 600 kilos of methamphetamine (shabu).
It supposedly slipped past Customs' green lane, which has relatively relaxed security checks compared to the red and yellow lanes, last May. Acting on a tip from China, authorities eventually found the drug shipment in a warehouse in Valenzuela City.
Asked if he believes that Faeldon should step down as Customs chief, Trillanes said: "If he is going to save his principals, then he should. But apparently, they have other plans. I would leave it up to them. It’s not my problem if they want to stick it out until the end."
However, Trillanes, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, said the controversy is a contradiction to the Chief Executive's pronouncements on corruption.
"Here’s the contradiction to the statements of President Duterte that he’s intolerant of corruption, that a mere whiff of corruption is enough for him to kick out any official. In this case, it’s been stinking so bad and yet he still stands by Faeldon," he said.
Trillanes and Faeldon were among the soldiers who staged the 2003 Oakwood mutiny against the administration of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, supposedly a protest against corruption.
Faeldon later claimed Trillanes received money from Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos back in 2004 while in detention.
The senator said he does not have any deep personal rift with the Customs chief. However, he admitted that the conflict began when Faeldon "sided or went with the Duterte campaign."
"Apparently, he was used by the Duterte campaign to say something negative about me because I was bringing out all these issues against Duterte, which they cannot answer, particularly the billion-peso bank accounts of Duterte," he said.
"They need to destroy or tarnish the messenger so they fielded Mr. Faeldon," he added.
FAELDON ON THE TAKE
Trillanes said he has a list of people in Customs who are on the take, and Faeldon is included there. However, he said this is only an unofficial document.
"The corruption in Customs, they move through whispers. You don’t see somebody signing a receipt for a bribe he received and apparently some lawyers or some senators want such evidence that they can present in court. Of course not, corruption in Customs does not work that way," he said.
The senator said he is not presenting the list in the Senate's next hearing because he has not yet vetted it.
While he has not yet vetted his own list, Trillanes is confident in its content after it was seconded by at least 5 informants—composed of individuals "working within Customs and those within the proximity of Customs operations."
"Five out of five said Faeldon was on the take. I don’t have any basis at all to say that he is not. That’s the problem," he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, Trillanes added, will be presenting his own list of officials who allegedly accept bribes for processing shipments. Faeldon is also supposedly part of this list.
Lacson had previously said the list of allegedly corrupt officials that he obtained contained names which were not mentioned by broker Mark Taguba, who earlier claimed that he gave grease money to Customs personnel.