Missing BOC witness to appear in House inquiry

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BOC Nicanor Faeldon
PCOO file photo of former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) officer who allegedly went missing after he was suspended by Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon will appear at the legislative inquiry of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, August 1, at 10 a.m., Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said.

Faeldon said Larribert Hilario could not be located since he was suspended.

The House committee on dangerous drugs has called for the hearing to ascertain how P6.5-billion worth of shabu could have sneaked past BOC inspectors in May this year.

House members threatened to give the bureau a null budget for 2018 if they cannot give a satisfactory explanation of the unprecedented breach in monitoring intelligence.

“He’s an important witness because he is in charge of the risk monitoring office. I don’t want to preempt his testimony, but he can help shed light,” Fariñas told reporters.

Hilario has been placed under the “protective custody” of the House sergeant-at-arms as authorized by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, he added.

He was “verbally suspended” earlier by Faeldon for allegedly failing to encode key risk criteria information that could have flagged the system, which inspectors use to spot suspect cargo.

The drugs were found stored in sealed metal cylinders at a warehouse in Valenzuela during a raid last May 26.

In his House Resolution 1057, Valenzuela Rep. Wesley Gatchalian noted it was alarming that the BOC allowed the subject cargo to pass through the “green lane” even when the container weighed nearly twice as much as normal.

“I am calling for this investigation because people have to be accountable in this government. With the marching orders of the president from the first day he stepped in office to crack down on illegal drugs, all of us here should be on the same page as a team,” Gatchalian said.

“Local enforcement efforts will not work if those standing at the gates of our country would be lax with their duties,” he added.

Fariñas said that Hilario has been interviewed by the House committee. He questioned the “verbal suspension” meted on the Customs officer, saying there was no such thing.

“If the evidence of guilt is strong, then you can impose preventive suspension, but you cannot just tell a person that he was suspended verbally,” he said.