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DOJ summons Faeldon over P6.4-B smuggled shabu

In a subpoena obtained by The STAR, the panel of prosecutors chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes ordered Faeldon and other respondents in the PDEA complaint to answer the charges against them.Geremy Pintolo, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has summoned former Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other former officials of the bureau over the string of criminal charges filed against them by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) over the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of shabu last May.

In a subpoena obtained by The STAR, the panel of prosecutors chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes ordered Faeldon and other respondents in the PDEA complaint to answer the charges against them.

The DOJ also required them to appear before the panel in a preliminary investigation hearing set today at 10 a.m.

Faeldon is expected to appear at the hearing after being allowed by the Senate, where he is currently detained after being cited for contempt for refusing to attend public hearings conducted by senators.

As this developed, one of the respondents – former Customs Investigation and Intelligence Service chief Neil Anthony Estrella – sought the dismissal of the charges of conspiracy to import illegal drugs and protecting or coddling of drug traffickers under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act) that were filed by the PDEA against them.

He described as “baseless, and malicious mix of inaccuracies and half-truths” the serious allegations in the complaint filed by PDEA.

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He said PDEA’s charges have no factual basis as he vowed not to surrender if the non-bailable cases proceed to court for trial.

“We will not allow ourselves to be jailed for these baseless accusations. We would rather become fugitives,” he said in an interview.

Estrella admitted he was surprised by the complaint because his team that handled the case had coordinated with PDEA throughout the operation. 

“In fact, PDEA readily gave the BOC and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) a certificate of coordination that we were acting under them, and they themselves oversaw the operation for the controlled delivery and to safeguard the drugs along with the NBI,” he pointed out.

The former BOC official also denied coddling or facilitating the escape of Richard Chen, one of the Chinese businessmen tagged in the shabu shipment.

“How can there be coddling when we turned Richard Chen over to the NBI, which later on filed a case against him?” he argued.

Estrella also denied the allegation of obstruction of justice, saying his team turned over all evidence they seized to the PDEA and NBI.

“Our mission was only to contain the drug shipment and we were able to do that. The Chinese government even lauded our effort, so we don’t understand why are we the ones being charged now,” he told reporters in the DOJ.

“The authorities who busted the drug shipment were the ones charged. This only happens in the movies,” he lamented.

Estrella added that the evidence was not contaminated and the chain of custody was not broken, contrary to the allegations of PDEA.

In its complaint, PDEA sought the indictment of Faeldon and 11 other officers of BOC for alleged conspiracy to import illegal drugs and protecting or coddling of drug traffickers under RA 9165.

The PDEA also accused them of obstruction of justice under Presidential Decree No. 1829 by “harboring or concealing, or facilitating the escape” of the persons behind the shabu shipment.

Faeldon and other respondents were also accused of negligence and tolerance under Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code.

Lastly, the PDEA also filed charges of corrupt practices of public officers under Section 3 of RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) for allegedly “causing any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”

Apart from Faeldon and Estrella, complaint named 11 others respondents in the charge sheet: BOC director Milo Maestrecampo; intelligence officers Joel Pinawin and Oliver Valiente; Manila International Container Port district collector lawyer Vincent Phillip Maronilla; Faeldon’s financé, lawyer Jeline Maree Magsuci; and BOC employees Alexandra Ventura, Randolph Cabansag, Dennis Maniego, Dennis Cabildo and John Edillor.

The anti-narcotics agency alleged that the importation of the illegal drug shipment would have not been possible if not for the “incompetence and corruption of the Bureau of Customs officials.”

In the same complaint, the PDEA filed illegal drug importation charges under RA 9165 against importers and facilitators of the shabu shipment – Chen Ju Long, Chen Rong Juan, Manny Li, Kenneth Dong, Mark Taguba II, Teejay Marcellana, Eirene May Tatad, Emily Dee, Chen I-Min and Jhu Ming Jyun.

It also included in the charge sheet the directors and officers of Hong Fei Logistics Inc., the warehouse where the shabu shipment was seized – Genelita Arayan, Dennis Nocom, Zhang Hong, Rene Palle, Richard Rebistual and Mary Rose dela Cruz.

PDEA’s complaint is separate from the complaint for drug smuggling filed by the NBI against the importers and brokers of the shipment, which is already undergoing preliminary investigation before the DOJ. 

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