MANILA - Former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon on Thursday said the drug-related complaint against him is “based on nothing else but the malice and envy” of a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) official.
In a 27-page counter-affidavit, Faeldon said the criminal complaint lodged against him and several other Customs officials over the P6.4-billion shabu shipment smuggled through the Manila port was the making of former PDEA National Capital Region director and now Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service chief Wilkins Villanueva.
Faeldon, currently detained at the Senate for shunning hearings on the controversy, slammed the complaint, filed on behalf of PDEA by its Seaport Interdiction Unit chief Norman Balquiedra, for being “imagined circumstantial allegations.”
The illegal shipment, amounting to about 602 kgs of “shabu,” arrived in the Philippines on May 15 from China and slipped past the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
It was seized on May 26 by BOC and National Bureau of Investigation operatives during a raid at the Hongfei Logistics warehouse in Valenzuela City.
The incident triggered legislative inquiries.
Faeldon and company were charged with conspiring to import illegal drugs and coddling drug traffickers, penalized under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, graft, obstruction of justice, and negligence and tolerance, penalized under Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code.
Charged with Faeldon were former BOC Directors Milo Maestrecampo and Neil Anthony Estrella; intelligence officers Joel Pinawin and Oliver Valiente; Manila International Container Port District collector lawyer Vincent Phillip Maronilla; Customs employees Alexandra Ventura, Randolph Cabansag, Dennis Maniego, Dennis Cabildo and John Edillor; and lawyer Jeline Maree Magsuci.
In his counter-affidavit, Faeldon alleged that Balquiedra filed the complaint upon the prodding of his “handler” and “amo,” Villanueva, out of the latter's alleged “crab mentality and extreme envy.”
Villanueva had criticized Faeldon’s group during two separate legislative inquiries by the House of Representatives and the Senate for "initially leaving out" the lead anti-drug agency in the operation, and “mishandling” the seized drugs.
Faeldon said the raid was “the biggest smuggled drugs seizure in the nation’s history,” which "led this Balquiedra and specifically his handler to be consumed with envy, such that they had to concoct this ludicrous and laughable complaint against me and my team, purely for malice."
"After Wilkins Villanueva and the PDEA woke up the next morning, 26 May 2017, they and the whole country opened their eyes to the biggest smuggled drugs seizure in our nation’s history. Now instead of congratulating and lauding herein respondent, his BOC team and the NBI for a job very well done, just as His Excellency, the President, no less, the Secretary of Finance and the whole country did, this Balquiedra’s and his handler’s crab mentality and extreme envy reared their ugly heads,” Faeldon’s counter-affidavit read.
'INNOCENT OF THE CHARGES'
Faeldon, who lawmakers had repeatedly asked to resign over the allegations, maintained his innocence, stressing he did not know any of the alleged smugglers of the subject “shabu.”
"I could not have conspired, aided or abetted with people whom I do not even know or have even me… even in his dreams, this Balguiedra could not even pin, let alone prove, my direct or even indirect participation in the P6.4 billion shabu smuggling, he desperately charged me instead with ‘conspiring’ with my co-respondents, all of whom are or were former BOC employees, in importing the said contraband.
"I, in truth and in fact, expressly ordered the seizure of said smuggled shabu,” the counter-affidavit read.
Faeldon argued Balquiedra had no personal knowledge about the case because the latter "did not even allege in his complaint, that he was personally present in any or all of the... incidents.” He further slammed Balquiedra for not submitting any “confirmatory and/or corroborating affidavit.”
“[E]ven in his dreams, this Balguiedra could not even pin let alone prove, my direct or even indirect participation in the P6.4 billion shabu smuggling, he desperately charged me instead with ‘conspiring’ with my co-respondents, all of whom are or were former BOC employees, in importing the said contraband,” the counter-affidavit read.
Faeldon defended his and his team’s actions in response to the Chinese government’s tip on the drug shipment, and stressed it only showed they could not have conspired to allow the drugs to slip past their watch.
“[H]erein respondent and his BOC team immediately and in a timely manner, coordinated with both the NBI and the PDEA, a fact proven by this Balquiedra’s own evidence, specifically, the two LOAs (letters of authority) bear the specific names of all the members of the raiding teams of the BOC and the NBI, as well as the inventory of seized properties/items and receipt/inventory of property seized, all of which bear the signatures of the BOC, NBI and PDEA operatives who participated in the raid-seizure,” the counter-affidavit read.
Faeldon also questioned the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice panel in investigating the complaint, stressing that since his salary grade was 30 at the time that he was BOC chief, the Office of the Ombudsman had jurisdiction over the case.
Faeldon had earlier filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the DOJ, but his pleading was junked.
Apart from Faeldon, 24 other respondents in the four consolidated cases submitted their respective counter-affidavits during Thursday’s hearing.
The investigating panel granted Maestrecampo’s plea for more time to submit his answer due to missing annexes to the complaint. He has until Oct. 24 to file his counter-affidavit.
The rest of the respondents in the consolidated cases are Taiwanese Chen I. Min and Jhu Ming Jyun; Chinese nationals Chen Ju Long aka "Richard Tan" or "Richard Chen" and Li Guang Feng; Fidel Anoche Dee (warehouse caretaker); Dong Yi Shen aka "Kenneth Dong;” alleged customs fixers Mark Ruben Taguba II and Teejay Marcellana; Eirene May Tatad, owner of EMT Trading, which was named as the shipment’s consignee; Manny Li; Chen Rong Juan; and Hong Fei Logistics officers Genelita Arayan, Dennis Nocom, Zhang Hong, Rene Palle, Richard Rebistual, and Mary Rose de la Cruz.