MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday vouched for the integrity of newly appointed Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña as he took the agency's helm amid a corruption scandal.
In a privilege speech Wednesday, Lacson said he is hoping that Lapeña, former chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), would institutionalize reforms at the BOC, which he described as the most corrupt government agency.
Lacson, a former national police chief, personally knows Lapeña, a former police official who held key positions at the Philippine National Police.
"With his appointment as new Customs chief, I can only hope and pray na hindi siya kainin ng sistema tulad nang nauna sa kanya," Lacson said, taking a shot at former Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon.
The senator accused Faeldon of receiving P100 million "welcome pasalubong" when he was appointed Customs commissioner last year. He said Faeldon also received "tara" (grease money) within a "mafia system" that recently allowed the entry of a P6.4-million shabu shipment from China through the Manila port.
The incident had triggered legislative inquiries in both chambers of Congress and exposed deeply entrenched corruption at the BOC.
Faeldon for his part, denied the accusation, saying he never engaged in corruption in all his years of government service.
"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," said Faeldon.
President Rodrigo Duterte relieved Faeldon earlier this week after he was tagged in corrupt practices at the BOC. Duterte, however, said he still trusts Faeldon and is mulling to reassign him to another government post.