MANILA – A Bureau of Customs (BOC) employee on Wednesday claimed that she collected tara or grease money from Customs broker Mark Taguba for her superiors Customs intelligence chief Neil Estrella and intelligence officer Joel Pinawin.
At the resumption of the Senate hearing on the alleged corruption at the BOC and the P6-billion shabu smuggling, May Escoto from the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Services testified that Pinawin ordered her three times in April and May to contact Taguba and to collect money meant for him and Estrella.
“Noong April 7 ng umaga, tinawag po ako ni Sir Joel Pinawin. Sabi niya sa akin tawagin si Mark Taguba at ito ‘yung sabihin mo, ‘yung para sa director at sa akin.’ Basta ‘yon lang daw po ang sabihin ko,” she said.
[On the morning of April 7, Sir Joel Pinawin called me up. He ordered me to call Mark Taguba and tell him, ‘for the director and mine.’ He told me to just tell him that.]
She also said she did not know she was collecting grease money as she was merely following her boss’ orders.
She said her series of exchanges with Taguba started after the Customs broker had a meeting with Pinawin last March.
After April 7, Pinawin allegedly gave her the same orders as well on April 21 and on May 5.
On the three occasions, Escoto said she collected two brown envelopes containing suspected cash from Taguba.
Based on his estimates, Taguba said he has given P50,000 for Estrella and around P10,000 to P20,000 to Pinawin each collection.
Escoto also revealed before the Senate that on August 8, Pinawin allegedly told her to give to him her sim card.
“Para siyang nagmamadali. Pagkabigay ko, binigyan ako ng pera pambili ng sim card [He looks like he was in a hurry. After I gave it to him, he gave me money to buy another sim card],” she said.
When she wanted to get her contacts in her sim card, Pinawin allegedly told her to get it next time.
Pinawin: all lies
Pinawin, at the hearing, denied giving such orders, saying that Mark Taguba, Escoto, and her husband Ricardo Carvajal alyas Tisoy – who she claimed also collected for Pinawin – and Estrella, were conspiring against him.
“Lahat ng sinabi ni May puro kasinungalingan po ito [Everything that May has said are all lies],” Pinawin said.
“Maliwanag po dito sir na kung nag-uusap man sila at nagte-text eh transaksyon nila ‘yon [It is clear that whatever they were talking or texting about, it was their transaction]” he added.
Estrella also denied Escoto’s allegations.
“I categorically deny that I received any money or any envelope from Mark Taguba….Also with May – I did not receive money nor gave instructions to collect for me,” Estrella said.
Estrella admitted he knew Tisoy but only regarded him as a media person who writes for a regular newspaper regarding the BOC.
“The more that I won’t allow anybody of that profile na taga-media na utusan kong [from the media that I would order] to collect money from us,” he said.
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