Customs execs, forced to quit amid shabu mess, appointed by Duterte to DOTr

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Gerardo Gambala (left) and Milo Mastrecampo (image from http://nicanorfaeldon.com)

MANILA, Philippines – Two former officials of the Bureau of Customs, who resigned at the height of the Senate probe into the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of crystal meth, or “shabu,” have been given posts in the Department of Transportation by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Gerardo Gambala, former deputy customs commissioner, was named director of the DOTr’s Office for Transportation Security, replacing Roberto Almadin.

Milo Maestrecampo, who used to be Import Assessment Services head at the BOC, was appointed assistant director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

Both appointments were dated November 6.

Gambala was valedictorian and Maestrecampo a member of the Philippine Military Academy’s “Marilag” class of 1995. Both were among the junior military officers who mounted the short-lived July 2003 Oakwood mutiny with now Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

The two were handed down life sentences in 2008 for their part in the mutiny while seven other officers got terms of six to 12 years. Days later, Gambala read a statement apologizing and seeking pardon for their failed uprising.

Then Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon recommended that then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo grant them executive clemency, which she did.

Esperon is now National Security Adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte.

They were brought into the BOC by resigned customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and found themselves in the center of the Senate probe into the alleged corruption that allowed the large drug shipment to slip through their agency and into warehouses in Valenzuela where the contraband was eventually found.

Gambala and Maestrecampo were among those accused by Senator Panfilo Lacson of receiving grease money from smugglers.

Customs fixer Mark Taguba also bared text messages that mentioned “MM” and “Milo” as among the Customs officials accepting bribes. He said this was Maestrecampo.

In August, Maestrcampo resigned “in order to fight for my honor and integrity and in the name of ‘delicadeza’.”

He is among 12 former Customs officials, including Faeldon, facing a criminal complaint before the Department of Justice over the shabu shipment.

Gambala quit in October.