July 18, 2018, 11:56 pm
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Broker names Customs execs receiving bribes

A broker-importer who is being linked to the shipment of P6.4 billion worth of shabu last May 23 spilled the beans yesterday on customs officials who allegedly received bribes in exchange for waiving the processing of his shipments.

During the resumption of the House committee on dangerous drugs, Mark Ruben Taguba II named the customs officials who allegedly received bribe money from him, including Director Milo Maestrecampo of the Import Assessment Service (IAS), a fellow former Magdalo mutineer of Customs Commissioner Nick Faeldon, who strongly denied the accusation and even vowed to resign.

On the questioning of Rep. Harry Roque (PL, Kabayan), Taguba told the panel that he paid P27,200 in “tara” or grease money per container.

The amount of P40,000 tax goes to government coffers, according to Taguba, while the rest – or more than half of what importers usually allocate per container – is for grease money.

He claimed giving P2,000 to the Customs’ Intelligence Group (IG) through a certain “Gerry” who collects the money; P3,000 through a certain “Jake” for the port collector; P1,000 through one “Jojo” for the Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group (AOCG); P500 to the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director through one Joel Pinawin; P500 for the CIIS through district collector through Teddy Sagaral, Manila International Container Port (MCIP) Service district intelligence officer; P500 for Enforcement Security Service (ESS) Director through one Jojo Alejenio; P500 for ESS district director through now deceased “Maj. Gutierrez;” P1,000 through a certain Jason for the X-Ray unit; P200 through a certain “Mark” for the Pier Inspection Division; P500 through one Maita Acevedo for the Formal Entry Division (FED); P10,000 for the IAS through one “Tita Nani;” and P7,500 “for the section” which is collected by a “Sandra” and an “Alfred.”

Taguba, 26, later identified Maestrecampo and the following officials as the recipients: Customs deputy commissioner Teddy Raval; Manila International Container Port (MCIP) district collector Vincent Philip Maronilla; and CIIS Director Neil Estrella, who is being blamed by lawmakers, along with Faeldon, for bungling the seizure of the illegal drugs in Valenzuela City last May 26.

All of them denied receiving bribes from Taguba, who was given legislative immunity to allow him to speak freely and avoid legal suits.

He, however, continued to deny that he knew about the shabu shipment from China, saying, “Your honor, they (BOC officials) linked me to drugs and that’s why I have to speak up. They have no evidence against me.”

Taguba said there were at least 16 containers for Hongfei Logistics Philippines, one of which contained the contraband that was later discovered at the Hongfei warehouse in Valenzuela City owned by one Richard Tan.

He earlier said that Tan is the owner of Hongfei and that Tan tapped EMT Trading as a consignee through an “open secret” scheme called “consignee-for-hire.”
 
‘REBEL, NOT A THIEF’

Maestrecampo denied knowing Taguba or anyone by the name of “Tita Nani” who allegedly receives the money for him or his office.

“I hope you (Taguba) realize that I live in a small town, we’re on national TV. You’ve already destroyed me because of the circumstances, I have already lost my name,” he told the panel, adding that Taguba only assumed that he was the one behind “Tita Nani.”

The former Magdalo mutineer vowed to step down from his post, submit his bank accounts and open all his assets for legal scrutiny.

“I’ll step down as soon as I return to the BOC. I’m satisfied with my salary. I can probably be a rebel but I’m not a thief,” Maestrecampo said. “I’m trying to defend my integrity here and I’m willing to submit myself to any investigation.”

Maronilla said he has not authorized anyone to collect for the office of the district collector and vowed to investigate if there was someone representing himself as from the office of the district collector.

“I already met Mark. The second time he was accompanied by his lawyer. But I have not and I don’t authorize anyone to collect for me. I deny that my office is getting something. If there’s somebody, I will investigate that,” he said.

Estrella admitted that he and his family’s reputation are now tarnished because of a single accusation which he said is part of the “risk” that his position entails.

“That’s the risk that we face because we’re operating against illegal drugs. We have no choice and I will tell my people that’s the risk of our profession. I will face my accuser in the proper forum,” he said.

It doesn’t make sense for him to operate against Taguba’s alleged drug shipment if he is in the broker’s payroll, Estrella told lawmakers.

The 63-year-old Sagaral said it was the first time that he was accused of irregularity in his 34 years on service.

He said he is prepared to face any investigation and “I’m hoping to clear my name before I retire, even if I know that I cannot change things anymore.”
 
‘A HERO AND A COWARD’

Aware of the danger that Taguba is facing, Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (NP, Surigao del Norte) called Taguba “a hero for this country.”

Faeldon was heavily criticized by lawmakers for not attending the hearing because of a “dental emergency.”

“He’s a coward for not being here, hiding under the skirt of his chief-of-staff (lawyer Mandy Therese Anderson),” said deputy speaker Miro Quimbo.
 
TECHNICAL MALVERSATION

In the same hearing, congressmen raised the possibility that the 28 athletes that Faeldon hired as consultants may face charges of technical malversation and falsification of public documents for receiving salaries not covered by the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the national budget.

“If we’ll be able to establish it here, you’ll all be guilty under direct participation (of technical malersation),” Rep. Vicente Veloso (PDP-Laban, Leyte), a retired Court of Appeals associate justice, told Anderson, after it was uncovered that athletes’ salaries came from the bureau’s professional services under the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).

Fariñas was disappointed that the athletes led by retired PBA player Kenneth Duremdes were required to submit daily time records (DTRs) even if their contracts do not require it and scolded Anderson for not advising the athletes against accepting their appointments.

“What would the offense committed be? A DTR is a public document, isn’t it ma’am (Anderson)? It’s falsification of public documents. Mandy?” Fariñas asked Anderson who replied “Yes, your honor.”

“And you’re (Anderson) a party to falsification of public documents. You’re a lawyer, you should have argued with your HR (Human Resources), we should not let these people sign DTR because it’s not true, it’s false and that’s a serious offense ma’am,” said Fariñas.

Duremdes said they are assigned in the field being technical assistants for intelligence but Fariñas advised him to just keep quiet, saying it’s obvious that they were hired just to play basketball and they are just making it appear that they are working.

The majority leader also advised his colleagues not to go after the athletes, saying they, too, were victims.

Upon questioning of Rep. Winston Castelo (PDP-Laban, Quezon City), Duremdes said they were hired by Faeldon to work on public engagement and “engage in image building.”

Edward Joseph “EJ” Feihl admitted that he has not contributed a single intelligence information in his one year in the BOC.

Others athletes hired by the BOC were Marlou Aquino, Dave Arguelles, Dante Canaway, Parley Tupas, Sherwin Meneses and Allysa Valdez.

The documents showed that Berzon Franco is with the assessment and operations coordinating group while Michael Anthony Sumalinog is with the IAS.

Assigned in the intelligence group were Feihl, Ronjay Enreli, Gherome Ejercito, Bong dela Cruz, Ed Bundoc, Mark Mabazza, Rizal Vonn Ignacio, Samuel Ignacio, Martin Llagoso, Carl Bryan Vitug, Danielle Michiko-Castaneda, Menchie Tubiera, Andrea Marzan, Rizza Jane Mandapat, Jonalyn Ibisa, Fenela Risha Emnas, Joshua Esguerra, Jonah Joy Corpuz and Cyrine Gonzaga.
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