Aquino knows ‘padrinos’ in Customs – Trillanes

Sen Antonio Trillanes IV says action from the President, not a Senate probe, is needed to reform Customs

PRESIDENT'S MOVE. Sen Antonio Trillanes IV says action from the President, not a Senate probe, is needed to reform Customs. Photo by Rappler/Ayee Macaraig

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Investigate padrinos? Who are we kidding?

Sen Antonio Trillanes IV raised questions about the proposed Senate probe into the so-called padrino or patronage system in the Bureau of Customs (BoC).

READ: ‘Reveal Customs padrinos in Senate probe’

Trillanes said that while he welcomes the investigation that Sen Francis Escudero is pushing for, what is needed to reform the agency is action from President Benigno Aquino III.

In an interview on Tuesday, July 30, the Aquino ally said the President already knows who the politicians backing corrupt BOC employees are. Trillanes refused to name the senators supposedly involved. 

Trillanes said, “I will support it pero bakit pa kung alam na naman natin? I’m sure alam na ni Senator Escudero kung sinu-sino ang nirerefer diyan. Alam na rin ni Presidente Aquino sinu-sino ang nirerefer na padrino so aanhin pa natin ito?”

(I will support it but why investigate when we already know them? I’m sure Sen Escudero already knows who he is referring to. President Aquino also knows the patrons so what is this for?)

Trillanes said a likely scenario in the Senate investigation is that the witnesses will not name the politicians, and the lawmakers involved will “do everything to divert the investigation.”

The senator said that if the objective of the probe is to find out the problem, Malacañang and lawmakers already know what it is.

“So kasi kung mag-iinvestigate dito para malaman ang problema, who are we kidding? Ako alam ko na eh. Alam na ni Sen Escudero iyan. Kung just for the public to know the extent of the problem, ituloy natin.

(If we investigate to find out what the problem is, who are we kidding? I know who the padrinos are. Sen Escudero knows them. If it’s just for the public to know the extent of the problem, okay let’s push through with it.)

Trillanes was responding to the resolution Escudero filed on Tuesday urging the Senate Blue Ribbon, Finance and Ways and Means Committees to probe the system where senators, congressmen and relatives of high officials peddle influence in the BoC.

Trillanes though said that he will participate if the probe pushes through.

“I will be very active so the public will see the true picture in Customs.”  

“’Pag nagsimula ang investigation na iyan, hanggang dulo tayo. Ang tanong natin diyan, ito bang mga gustong mag-imbestiga, hanggang dulo ba?”

(If we start the investigation, let’s finish it to the end. The question is: are those who want to investigate willing to go all the way?)

‘Your move, Mr President’

Trillanes explained why he is sure Aquino knows the Customs backers.

“Kasi sinabi nga niya sa SONA eh. Ang dami niyang sama ng loob na nilabas sa SONA tungkol sa Customs, ibig sabihin meron siyang alam. Ang sa akin, nilabas mo na ang sama ng loob mo, ngayon aantayin namin kung anong gagawin mo para mawala ang sama ng loob mo.”

(Because he discussed that in his SONA. He vented so many frustrations about Customs, which means he knows something. To me, you let it out so now we will wait what you will do about it.)

Trillanes said he too was confused why the President did not accept the resignation of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon after a scathing State of the Nation Address (SONA).

In his SONA, Aquino shamed Customs officials for corruption and incompetence.

Saan po kayo kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha, kayong mga nasa [tiwaling] ahensiyang ito?” the President said. (I wonder, you who are in these corrupt agencies, where do you get the gall?) 

Biazon offered to resign after the speech but has since stayed on. The embattled customs chief seeks to reform the agency by reassigning port collectors and other officials. 

Trillanes said, “I’m a bit confused why he didn’t accept but okay that’s his decision so we wait for the next step. The problem has not yet been addressed. No action has been taken. You vented your frustration. Someone resigned. You didn’t accept it so now what will you do?”

“I’m willing to be surprised.”

Enrile: I recommended Gatchalian but…

Trillanes’ bitter rival Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile admitted recommending Port of Manila district collector Rogel Gatchalian but not for the post he now holds. Gatchalian has been named as one of the so-called “3 kings of Customs” or those who have the backing of powerful polticians and groups. 

Enrile said he does not know Gatchalian but during the Arroyo administration, “somebody approached me if I could help him get a rank higher than what he had. I think he was aspiring to be a Collector VI so I recommended him to be promoted to Collector VI. I did not recommend him for Manila.” 

The former Senate President said he told Gatchalian upon his appointment not to embarrass him and to increase the collection in the Port of Manila.

“That’s what he did. He was the number one performer so they could not take him out of Manila because nobody can equal his performance. I never called him for any favor or anything. I never interceded for him to anyone,” Enrile said.  

“I never called anybody in the BoC. You can ask each one of all those people. That is why collector Gatchalian was decent enough to say in his letter that I never asked any favor from him, which is true. I don’t call anybody in the BoC,” Enrile said in an interview before the Senate session Tuesday. 

‘Systemic reforms, not just revamp’

Trillanes and Sen Bam Aquino said that Biazon’s efforts to revamp the bureau are not enough to solve the problem.

Sen Aquino said he supports the investigation but it will be better if other groups also conduct a probe.

“It’s really hard to investigate yourself. We can allow that investigation to happen but if there will be recommendations to file charges, let’s just do that,” Aquino said in a separate press briefing.

Aquino said systemic reform is needed, possibly even privatizing the bureau.

“The problem there is really far-reaching. If they smuggle goods, our farmers are the ones affected, the small businessmen, all of us. I support Senator Chiz in his investigation. I will take part in the investigation as well. –