Lacson says Faeldon took P100-M 'pasalubong' at Customs, names major 'tara' recipients

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2017 06:06 PM | Updated as of Aug 23 2017 06:45 PM

Faeldon denies allegations, says he never accepted 'tara'

MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday accused former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon of corruption, naming him among alleged major recipients of tara (grease money) at the bureau.

In a privilege speech, Lacson said Faeldon received a P100 million "welcome pasalubong" when he was appointed as BOC head last year.

"Loud whispers in the four corners of the Bureau of Customs compound tell of a P100-million pasalubong to the newly installed commissioner," he said, adding that officials who receive such amounts become addicted to bribes. 

Faeldon denied Lacson's allegations, calling for an independent investigation on the corruption charges.

"I have not asked anybody to collect tara for me nor have I accepted any tara from anybody. Again, I have not done any form of corruption in my many years of government service nor tolerated those who tried even in the form of request. No is no," Faeldon, a former Marine, said in a statement.

"The country will appreciate if a third party investigation by a competent body will be conducted so that justice will be served. Just like the Honorable Senator Lacson and the Filipino people, I want the truth to come out," he added. 

In his speech, Lacson detailed how the 'tara system' works and identified major players, citing sources who surfaced after the bust of the P6.4 billion shabu shipment smuggled through the Manila port.

The incident has triggered investigations at the Senate and the House of Representatives and exposed deeply entrenched corruption at the BOC. 

Among the biggest recipients of tara, said Lacson, were Faeldon, Deputy Commissioners Teddy Raval, Ariel Nepomuceno, Gerardo Gambala, Natalio Ecarma III, Edward Dy Buco, and Customs Intelligence chief Neil Estrella.

Also on Lacson's list were Zsae De Guzman, Chief of the BOC Intellectual Property Rights Division; Larribert Hilario from the BOC Risk Management Office; Joel Pinawin, officer-in-charge of the Intelligence Division; and Milo Maestrecampo, formerly of the Imports and Assessments Service.

Faeldon, Gambala and Maestrecampo were among soldiers who, in July 2003, mounted a mutiny against the administration of then President Gloria Arroyo to decry alleged corruption in government. 

Maestrecampo resigned earlier this month after he was implicated in corrupt practices, even as he denied the allegations. 

The rest of the officials on Lacson's list are in this video:

Lacson also said that based on an "unimpeachable source," a "prominent Customs official" he mentioned has received a total encashment of P5.109 million from May 16 to June 28, 2017.

"Masakit man sa aking dibdib dahil 'yung iba sa aking nabanggit na mga pangalan ay mga kaibigan ko, pero kung magiging selective din ako dahil kaibigan o kakilala, ide-delist ko 'yung kanilang mga pangalan, hindi na lang ako magpi-privilege speech," said Lacson, a former national police chief who has made several explosive exposés on the Senate floor. 

The senator also named players like customs broker Mark Taguba, who already testified before the Senate on BOC corruption. In his testimony, Taguba also named those involved in alleged corruption at the bureau, among them David Tan, the Davao Group, Manny Santos, the Teves Group, and Kimberly Gamboa.

The "tara" that reaches the Office of the Commissioner and the Customs Command Center is around P5,000 to P10,000 per container, according to Lacson. Other offices also receive grease money, he said.

He said that out of the 15,000 to 16,000 containers released per week, around 6,000 to 6,400 or 40% are with grease money, with the "big players" responsible for releasing roughly 340 to 490 containers a day.

Lacson said the issue of corruption at the BOC, an agency he called the "devils' heaven," should be addressed with the same intensity as the administration's war against drugs.

"The drug problem cannot be solved by focusing on the demand reduction alone. Hindi pa ba sapat ang isang taon at libo-libong napatay ng pulis at vigilantes para makita at mapatunayan natin ito?" he said.