Faeldon, 11 others placed on watch list

Former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon

MANILA — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Wednesday he will issue a lookout bulletin order to stop former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and 11 other officials from leaving the country after they were implicated in drug charges involving the P6.4-billion shabu shipment seized in May.

Unlike a hold departure order issued by trial courts, a lookout bulletin order requires the accused to seek permission from the Justice Department before they can leave the country.

Aguirre’s statement came after one respondent, former Customs Investigation and Intelligence Service chief Neil Anthony Estrella declared in a recent forum that they will not allow themselves to be jailed over baseless charges and would rather go into hiding instead.

Estrella backtracked on Wednesday, however, saying they would face the charges in court.

“We have strong faith in our justice system and our government institutions involved in the administration of justice. We are confident that we will be cleared after the DOJ sifts through the faulty complaint filed by the PDEA,” he said, referring to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. “We will not go into hiding, we will face our accusers in court if need be.”

Estrella said his statement last week came from his deep emotional anguish for his men and himself, whose only involvement in the shabu smuggling case was to have successfully interdicted and seized all the shabu following a tip from the Chinese Customs Intelligence Service.

The CIIS coordinated with the PDEA and the National Bureau of Investigation on the seizure of the shabu and the arrest and identification of the personalities involved in the thwarted smuggle attempt.

“We have no involvement in the smuggled shipment in Customs, or how the shipment was placed in the Green Lane, where there is no need for inspections by the Customs,” Estrella said in Filipino.

He questioned the report of PDEA that questioned their participation in the operation to seize the smuggled shabu.
“PDEA was part of the operation. They gave us a certificate of coordination that we are operating under them. We were able to seize all shabu, we took care the chain of evidence, and arrested all those involved in drug shipment. How come in the end, those who took part of the arrest are the ones who are now facing charges?” Estrella said.

“That’s why we feel so badly. We risked our lives to prevent those drugs from reaching the streets. We did our job pursuant to the President’s anti-drug campaign. And now, we are the ones accused,” Estrella added.

In a complaint filed Sept.18, the PDEA sought the indictment of Faeldon, Estrella and 10 other officers of the Bureau of Customs for conspiracy to import illegal drugs and protecting or coddling of drug traffickers under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

The PDEA also accused Faeldon and other BOC officers 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 the 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.”

The other respondents in the charge sheet are former import assessment services director Milo Maestrecampo; intelligence officers Joel Pinawin and Oliver Valiente; Manila International Container Port district collector lawyer Vincent Phillip Maronilla; Faeldon’s fiancé, lawyer Jeline Maree Magsuci; and BOC employees Alexandra Ventura, Randolph Cabansag, Dennis Maniego, Dennis Cabildo and John Edillor.