By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
At a closed-door session of the Senate blue ribbon committee, a witness claimed that the highest officials of the Bureau of Customs — Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and Customs Intelligence Officer Col. Neil Anthony Estrada — were responsible for 600 kilograms of shabu that came from China.
The whistle-blower, Mark Ruben Taguba II, wrote the names of the Customs officials supposedly involved in the shipment of what could be the largest illegal drug for the benefit of the Senate committee chaired by Sen. Ricard Gordon.
The shipment was seized by the Bureau of Customs (BoC) in Valenzuela warehouses last May.
Faeldon and Estrella allegedly made a trip to China right after the shipment was seized together with the owner of Hongfei Phils., Richard Tan, which shipped the shabu from China.
And contrary to the claims of BoC Chief Faeldon that BoC executive Larribert Hilario, who was earlier verbally suspended by Faeldon even when suspension orders were supposed to be written and he has gone missing, Hilario has been found under the House of Representatives’ protective custody.
Hilario is expected to testify before the House on the PHP 6.4 Billion shabu shipment from China and is expected to drop a few more bombshells.
As the Senate blue ribbon committee conducted its investigation, the Senate panel also granted protective custody to the broker of the shabu shipment that was seized last May, following a closed-door executive session where he fingered the BoC officials.
Gordon earlier suspected that Hilario, who was claimed by Faeldon to have been suspended by him and is now missing, is privy to the shabu shipment and probable corrupt practices, he and the other senators appeared not to have known that Hilario has been under protective custody of the House of Representatives, which also started its own investigation on the illegal shipment.
The names of those supposedly involved in the shipment last May 17 were disclosed to Senate probers in the executive session. “It would lead to the unraveling of many things in BoC,” Sen. Gordon said after suspending the Senate inquiry into the biggest shabu shipment into the country so far.
“A little bit of both but more on the payola,” Gordon said, referring to the disclosures made by alleged customs broker Taguba in closed-door proceedings, in which the Senator said names were listed by the latter on those supposedly privy to the whole transaction.
“Yes, he was a willing witness. He wrote it. I made him write it. I did not want him to say it. I want him to write it in his own handwriting,” the Senator said.
Gordon did not answer when pressed by reporters whether Faeldon and Estrella were named by Taguba. Gordon said Taguba was a “fixer” who identified himself as a “broker.”
Taguba identified Tan as the owner of Hongfei Phils. which shipped the shabu from China. It was Taguba who said EMT Trading was a consignee through an “open secret” scheme called “consignee-for-hire.”
Taguba supposedly told the Senate hearing that he dealt with a certain Kenneth Dong, Tan’s middleman, who, according to the committee, left the country on July 28.
Taguba himself is not out of the woods. We’re taking it with a grain of salt, depending on whether he’s going to be useful later on. We’re still unraveling the problem,” Gordon said.
Gordon, however, refused to provide details on those who could possibly be held liable within the BoC but gave hints the involvement of personalities could be “top to bottom.”
“What has been established is that there’s corruption and incompetence within Customs which everybody knows and we’re nearer to identifying that. There will definitely be liabilities, if that is to be pursued. As I’ve said, up and down,” he said.