MANILA – (UPDATE, 5:02PM) Resigned Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, who has narrowly avoided criminal prosecution in the P6.4-billion smuggling of shabu from China that went through Customs’ Green Lane in May 2017, has a new job: deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).
His former comrade in the military, Navy officer turned senator Antonio Trillanes IV, promptly reacted to Faeldon’s appointment: “Faeldon knows the dark secrets of the Duterte family that’s why, even if he is grossly incompetent, he remains a sacred cow,” he said in a text message to reporters.
Faeldon spent Christmas in detention at the Senate premises in Pasay City, where he had been clamped by senators following his repeated refusal to make subsequent appearances at Senate hearings on the shabu smuggling case. And Sen. Panfilo Lacson expressed hope the President, while exercising his prerogative to appoint whom he wishes, would not dictate on the Senate as to when to release Faeldon, whom he said may have to meantime function as OCD deputy “from detention.” That’s because the Senate is in recess, and ordering release of persons cited in contempt is a collegial decision.
In its initial report on the shabu smuggling scandal, the Blue Ribbon recommended an overhaul of the Bureau of Customs, and the filing of cases against Faeldon and several ranking officers for setting up a centralized system that allowed the contraband to go through Green Lane — meaning, absolutely no inspection — despite several red flags that should have alerted the office.
In alluding to Faeldon’s alleged knowledge of “dark secrets” of the First Family, Trillanes was apparently referring to accusations he hurled during Senate hearings at the President’s son Paolo and son-in-law Manases Carpio, of involvement in a so-called “Davao Group” influential with Customs.
At one point, Trillanes accused Paolo, vice mayor of Davao, of being a Triad member, and dared him to show a tattoo on his back that supposedly bore coded characters indicating such. Paolo rejected his dare and flatly denied the allegation.
LACSON: CAN HE FUNCTION FROM DETENTION MEANTIME?
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Win Gatchalian also weighed in on the Faeldon appointment.
Lacson for a time had a raging word war with Faeldon – with the latter accusing Lacson of coddling his son’s alleged technical smuggling activities and Lacson lambasting Faeldon’s failure to stop drug smuggling right beneath his nose.
Reacting to Faeldon’s appointment to OCD, Lacson said Wednesday: “The Senate cannot dictate on the President who to appoint or not. Faeldon has not been convicted of any crime yet and certainly he is not barred from assuming an appointive or even an elective position. Certainly, the President has the authority to exercise his prerogative to appoint him.”
While sounding conciliatory, Lacson had an interesting caveat: “However, the Senate cannot also be dictated upon to release Faeldon from custody. So, while he can assume his new post at the OCD, he may have to function from the Senate detention facility via remote control, unless his contempt citation is lifted by the Senate acting as a collegial body.”
Gatchalian for his part said: “I respect the decision of the President to appoint Faeldon. This is his prerogative. However, the President should understand that this person is absolutely ineffective in the Bureau of Customs and was primarily responsible for the lack of systems in deterring illegal drugs from coming through the ports of our own customs.”