MANILA, Philippines – Embattled Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon apologized to congressmen on Wednesday night for making a general statement that lawmakers were meddling in the appointment and promotion of Customs officers.
“My apologies to everyone,” Faeldon told a hearing by the House of Representatives committee on ways and means on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment that was released by the Manila International Container Port on May 23.
Faeldon made the apology hours after threatening to expose those who have used their position as lawmakers to influence him.
“Respect this country,” he urged the unnamed House members.
Members of the ways and means committee repeatedly pleaded with Faeldon to name names in the course of the marathon 10-hour hearing on Wednesday. But the Customs chief said he would identify them in a closed-door session.
He said he saw nothing wrong with a House member recommending the appointment of someone or the promotion of a Customs officer.
“But when that lawmaker forces me to make an appointment or a promotion, then that is unethical. I am not even interfering with our promotions board,” Faeldon said.
He added there were “fewer than 10” of these lawmakers. Later, he said there were “about 10.”
Faeldon vowed to name them in an executive session.
Among those who protested the Customs chief’s accusation were Reps. Romero Quimbo of Marikina, Fredenil Castro of Capiz and Ferjenel Biron of Iloilo.
Quimbo said Faeldon’s allegation was “unfair to House members and the institution we represent.”
Castro lamented that the Customs chief made “everybody a suspect.”
Biron, who is into the pharmaceutical business, said his family “has been legally importing legal drugs for 23 years.”
Not once did he ask any Customs officer or employee to facilitate his drug shipment, he said.
He admitted though that he recommended someone who he said is now Customs collector in Batangas City.
Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop resented Faeldon’s appeal for lawmakers to “respect the country.”
“You have no monopoly of love for this country, which I served for 35 years as a military and police officer, unlike you,” he told the Customs chief.
Faeldon later approached his senior in military school and apologized.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has admitted endorsing the promotion of Sandy Sacluti, but claimed that his May 15 letter to Faeldon was “not lobbying.”
Faeldon and his chief of staff Mandy Therese Anderson turned down Alvarez’s request. Anderson said the Speaker got angry with them.
Mindoro Oriental Rey Umali said he recruited 40 lawyers during his time as deputy Customs commissioner under the Aquino administration.
“They included Larry Hilario,” Umali said, referring to the witness on the P6.4-billion drug shipment, who has been placed by the House in its protective custody.
Quimbo said he was disappointed with Hilario as he did not reveal earthshaking information.