MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he would follow due process and wait for the outcome of the congressional investigations on the P6-billion shabu smuggling that has spurred calls for the resignation of the chief of the Bureau of Customs, ex-Marine officer Nicanor Faeldon.
“Let the investigation go to its end. Let them wind up. It’s just in the course of the investigation. I want the report, final. Then I will review it and I will be fair,” Duterte said at a press briefing after the 113th anniversary of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in Quezon City.
On Tuesday night, after Duterte summoned economic managers and Faeldon to Malacañang, the Palace released a statement to Palace reporters, attributed to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, that Duterte had told Faeldon to stay and keep serving the country.
The office of presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella has since issued a clarification in behalf of Dominguez, who said he did not categorically say Duterte ordered Faeldon to stay.
Several lawmakers sought Faeldon’s resignation over his failure to immediately detect the illegal drug shipment in late May that passed through BOC’s green lane and made its way to a warehouse in Valenzuela City.
Faeldon’s run-in with congressmen had worsened last week after he categorically declared he decided to keep his chief of staff, lawyer Mandy Therese Anderson, whom he described as fitting the President’s requirements of competent and honest people to help clean up the bureaucracy.
Anderson incurred the lawmakers’ wrath after saying Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s bid to abolish the Court of Appeals would make people see what an “imbecile he is” were he to make good on his threat. She has since apologized and took down the post in her private Facebook account.
On Wednesday morning, Faeldon said several lawmakers had tried to interfere with the work of the Customs Promotion Board, endorsing some unqualified people.
Believes in integrity
Despite Faeldon’s travails, the President on Wednesday remained firm in putting his trust in the beleaguered official. “I believe in his integrity,” he said.
Duterte also said he would not involve himself in the issue and was willing to give Faeldon the benefit of the doubt if the issue would merely turn out as a “matter of computation” instead of corruption.
“I will not be a multiplier to the messy thing if it is really a thing that’s parang [like] topsy turvy,” he said
“But let me also advise everybody that if it is a question of mathematical computation or the equation used, then there is really nothing to it. As long as there is no corruption,” he added.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who was among those whom the President met Tuesday night, said the lawmakers came away with the impression that “the President is eagerly awaiting the recommendation of the Senate and House panels.” Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said in a radio interview that, while the President had told Faeldon on Tuesday night how much he trusted him, Duterte had also made it clear he will consider seriously whatever the parallel inquiries in both chambers would surface.
Meanwhile, Palace officials clarified Wednesday that Finance Secretary Dominguez had disowned a remark, attributed to him by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), where he reported that President Duterte had already decided to keep Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.
The President had summoned economic managers led by Dominguez to Malacañang late Tuesday, and among them was Faeldon, being head of a top revenue agency.
The PCO released this “Statement from Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez – on BOC commissioner Nicanor Faeldon: The president has met Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon this afternoon. The chief executive has expressed his full confidence in Commissioner Faeldon and told him to focus on serving the country.”
Dominguez said, however, that all he did was confirm that the President had met with him and Faeldon.