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Rody appoints 2 ex-Customs execs to DOTr

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has given new positions to two former Customs officials accused of receiving bribes from smugglers. 

Former Customs Import Assessment Service director Milo Maestrecampo was appointed assistant director general II of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines while former deputy commissioner Gerardo Gambala was named director IV of the Office for Transportation Security.

Duterte, who vowed not to tolerate even a whiff of corruption in government, appointed the two former Customs officials to their new posts last Nov. 6, documents released by Malacañang yesterday showed. 

The Customs bureau was placed in hot water this year after it was discovered that P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China was able to enter the country. The scandal paved the way for a series of exposes about the supposed systemic corruption in the bureau. 

Opposition Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao said Duterte gave the two former Customs officials the new posts “to silence them.”

“Perhaps it’s a way to silence them from spilling the beans on who are the real masterminds of the shabu smuggling. Up to now, no one has been held accountable,” he said.

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Maestrecampo and Gambala were among the Customs officials accused by Sen. Panfilo Lacson of receiving money from smugglers in exchange for the release of illegal shipment. 

Other officials accused by Lacson of receiving bribes include former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, deputy commissioners Teddy Raval, Ariel Nepomuceno, Natalio Ecarma III and Edward James Dy Buco; former Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service director Neil Estrella, and Larribert Hilario of the Risk Management Office.

The Customs officials have denied receiving grease money and engaging in any form of corruption. 

Despite their denials, Maestrecampo and Gambala opted to step down from their posts. Maestrecampo resigned from the bureau last August while Gambala left last month. 

Gambala and Maestrecampo resigned after customs broker Mark Taguba claimed they were among Customs officials receiving bribe money.

Taguba also linked the so-called Davao group to Customs corruption and drug smuggling.

Baguilat said he thought Duterte was serious in his anti-corruption campaign.

“Why were those linked to corruption and shabu smuggling appointed to the DOTr?” he asked, referring to the mother agency Department of Transportation.

For his part, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said he respects the President’s decision to appoint the two former Customs officials to his agency.

“I respect the decision of the President. My concern is their future performance. If there will be no problem, then so be it,” Tugade said.

Baguilat said the President’s oft-repeated statements against corruption became meaningless with the reappointment of the two former Customs officials.

Maestrecampo and Gambala were members of the Magdalo, a group of rebel soldiers who staged an uprising against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2003. 

New appointees

Other officials who were appointed last Nov. 6 were:

  • Alexander Macario (assistant secretary of the interior and local government),
  • Lyndon Suy (health assistant secretary),
  • Carolina Taino (health undersecretary),
  • Rolando Domingo (health undersecretary),
  • Eduardo de Vega (ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the Commission of the European Communities and the Council of the European Union),
  • Denis Lepatan (ambassador to Switzerland with concurrent jurisdiction over Liechtenstein),
  • Jocelyn Batoon-Garcia (ambassador to Norway with concurrent jurisdiction over Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Sweden),
  • Mito-On Ibra (director IV of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos),
  • Antonio Partoza Jr. (board member representing the land-based recruitment sector of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) and
  • Jesus Aranas (board member of Government Service Insurance System). 

– With Jess Diaz, Louella Desiderio

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