MANILA, Philippines — Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, who is engaged in what appears to be a progressively worsening tiff with lawmakers over allegations of corruption, received more flak for appointing former and current basketball and volleyball players as “technical assistants” of his agency.
“Ang tanong lang naman eh kasama ba sa mandato ng Customs na bumuo ng basketball team?” Quirino Representative Dakil Cua, chairman of the House ways and means committee, asked.
Other questions Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu and Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Representative Mark Sambar also want answered are: What are their qualifications? What are their official functions? How much are they getting from the bureau, and are they performing according to their mandated tasks?
Faeldon, whose agency is being probed for the smuggling of P6.4-billion worth of crystal meth or “shabu” into the country, had earlier insinuated that lobbying by lawmakers for the hiring or promotion of favored persons at the Bureau of Customs was a form of corruption.
“Ang pinupunto lang natin ay iyong sinasabi ni Commissioner Faeldon na ‘kayong mga politiko ‘wag kayong mag-eendorso dahil iyan ay form of corruption.’ Kailangan mahusay iyong mga taong naririto, tingnan natin kung itong mga nilagay niya mahusay talaga (We just want to point out what Commissioner Faeldon said, that ‘you politicians shouldn’t endorse because that is a form of corruption. These people must be good, let us see if these people he placed there are really good),” Abu said.
The lawmakers said they were not judging the athletes’ capabilities, nor did there appear to be any violation in hiring them; they would just like to know if they are qualified for the jobs they were hired to do.
“If the BOC can justify that they have the capabilities, that they have the right talent, then why not,” Sambar said. “The BOC should justify their appointment.”
When the hiring of the athletes was raised at a hearing late Wednesday, Faeldon confirmed he engaged them through Customs Special Order No. 58-2016 dated Septeber 27, 2016 to represent the BOC in a sports competition.
In October 2016, the website PortCalls (http://www.portcalls.com/boc-signs-pro-basketball-volleyball-players/#), announced the signing up of basketball and volleyball players for the BOC team.
The website identified Duremdes, Aquino, Arguelles and Canaway as among those who would be suiting up for the BOC Transformers basketball team for the UNTV Cup, a charity basketball league featuring athletes representing different government agencies.
Abu said he played for the team of the House of Representatives in the sports event and explained that the rules require participants in such events be employees of government agencies or departments, with teams allowed only a maximum of three collegiate or former professional players.
“Para ma-circumvent iyong regulasyon, kukuha ka ng magagaling na players o dating mga professional players, kukunin mo na empleyado, ilalagay mo sa plantilla mo, kaya puwedeng lahat ng players mo ay (To circumvent the regulations, you get good players or former professional players then hire them, put them on you payroll, so all your players can be) PBA players,” he said.
“Ang punto ko rito, ‘wag tayong magsalita na para bang itong institusyon namin dito ay corrupt, at ang pag-eendorso ay form of corruption, pero itong pang-iisa mo o panggugulang mo ay hindi ba iyon form of corruption (My point is, let us no talk like our institution is corrupt and endorsement is a form of corruption, but this deception of yours is not a form of corruption),” Abu added.
Sambar said it was time to examine whether government money, including BOC funds, should be spent to hire people just to play basketball.
“I’m not aware of the practice in other agencies, if they have qualifications to work, the expertise, necessary talents,” he said.