MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2 – 12:52 p.m.) A day after being accused by Senator Panfilo Lacson of corruption, outgoing Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon fired back, accusing the lawmaker’s son of allegedly smuggling billions of pesos worth of cement by undervaluing the freight costs.
At a televised press conference in his home in Taytay, Rizal, Faeldon also insinuated that Panfilo Lacson Jr. and his firm Bonjourno could be “fronting” for his father.
In a privilege speech on Wednesday, Lacson accused Faeldon and several subordinates of raking in bribes, among these a P100-million “welcome gift” the commissioner allegedly received upon assuming office.
Among the others Lacson named were deputy commissioners Teddy Raval, Ariel Nepomuceno, Gerardo Gambala, Natalio C. Ecarma III, and Edward Dy Buco; Neil Estrella, head of Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service; Larrybert Hilario, head of the BOC Risk Management Office; and Milo Maestrecampo, Import Assessment Service director.
Also included in Lacson’s list are: Zsae De Guzman, chief of the Intellectual Property Rights Commission; Joel Pinawin, officer-in-charge of the Intelligence Division; Grace Malabed, acting chief of the Accounts Management Office; and Alvin Embreo, director of the Revenue Collection Monitoring Group’s Legal Service.
Both Lacson and Faeldon are graduates of the Philippine Military Academy and former servicemen. So are six Customs officials Faeldon brought into the agency, all of whom Lacson named.
“We will bring you to justice that’s why you want us out,” Faeldon said, addressing the senator.
Responding to Faeldon’s claims, Lacson issued the following statement:
“First, I have nothing to do with my son’s business activities; second, there is no smuggling of cement as it is not subject to customs tariff and duties but only subject to VAT (value added tax), which my son said, when I checked with him just now, they always pay; third, he should have filed charges against my son if he now says, he’s into smuggling; fourth, it doesn’t make sense that I will expose the shenanigans in the BOC, if my son is cheating on taxes as Faeldon is now accusing him of. The logical thing for me to do is not to make the expose’ and just keep quiet. For the record, I have always reminded my son to be on the level in whatever business dealings he would have because if not, I’ll be the first one to castigate him and even initiate filing of charges against him.”
Faeldon said Lacson Jr.’s firm was among the 600 importers he suspended and that he personally knew of four shiploads of cement last year — three in July, within his “first 12 days in office,” worth more than P100 million, and one in October — whose freight cost the senator’s son allegedly undervalued by at least 50 percent, declaring $8 a metric ton when the prevailing cost was between $16-20.
But very recently, he said he had records checked and learned that Lacson Jr. had imported a total of 67 shiploads of cement “since I assumed office.”
He added that the Cement Manufacturers’ Association of the Philippines had written him on the “notorious” smugglers of the commodity and that Bonjourno was “number one.”
“Senator Lacson are you a player?” Faeldon asked, then added: “This is what you fear. We are getting close to exposing you.”
“All you have to do, Senator Lacson, is disown this. Is your son fronting for you? Is this your dummy company?” Faeldon said as he urged the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to investigate his allegations.
The committee, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, is investigating how P6.4 billion in crystal meth or “shabu” from China was sneaked into the country, apparently under the Bureau of Customs’ nose.
Reacting to Faeldon’s call for an investigation, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said:
“Bakit ngayon lang (Why just now), 24 hours after Senaor Lacson’s exposè? An act of desperation on the part of Faeldon. I have full faith in the uprightness of Sen Lacson and his family. Without any evidence other than Faeldon’s allegation, I will oppose any investigation. It will be a waste of time and will simply be used as a venue for character assassination.”
Faeldon added that, if Lacson denied knowing about his son’s alleged smuggling activities, that would only prove that the senator knows “nothing about Customs” and was, therefore, “lying” about the claims he made against Faeldon and the other Customs officers.
Meanwhile, asked about Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, whose name has been dragged into the smuggling scandal, Faeldon said he did not believe the local executive and presidential son had nothing to do with the supposed “Davao group” of smugglers.
At the same time, however, he also claimed he had no personal knowledge or dealings with the Davao group.
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