MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged with importation of illegal drugs Customs "broker" Mark Taguba, who was identified as the alleged middleman in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment case that was smuggled to the country last May.
The DOJ panel, however, did not include former Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other Customs officials among those charged with importation of illegal drugs.
The DOJ statement on Wednesday, November 22, said those charged before the Valenzuela Regional Trial Court (RTC) were:
No bail was recommended for the above named individuals. The DOJ said they were able to find “a pattern of overt acts indicative of conspiracy to import into the country the dangerous drugs.”
“The filing of the information in this case is one way to eradicate this threat for the better future of our youth and loved ones. We want to send a message that any involvement in drugs will be severely dealt with,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said.
Accusation not clear
The same DOJ statement said the following individuals were cleared because of "lack of probable cause":
Taguba accused Estrella and Pinawin of receiving "tara" or grease money from him, for the shipments he handles on behalf of clients. Both Customs officials denied the accusation.
The DOJ said they dismissed the charges against the Customs officials because the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was unable to state with clarity in its complaint the acts of omission supposedly committed by the named BOC respondents.
“While the complainant and his principals style themselves as immaculate anti-drug crusaders elsewhere, their lack of seriousness to craft a complaint worthy of this Honorable Panel’s time and attention betrays their true colors and ulterior motives,” Estrella said in a rejoinder submitted to the DOJ in early November.
Estrella said the “faulty” PDEA complaint may also exonerate Taguba and others, but such is not the case in this instance.
The DOJ said PDEA was not able to present evidence that would establish probable cause to charge the Customs officials. The DOJ added they were “constrained to take into consideration the defense raised by the respondents.”
“Our mandate is to investigate and seize contraband outside the Customs territory. So why are we – who, with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and PDEA, are responsible for successfully conducting one of the largest drug busts in history – now included in this criminal case?” Estrella said.
These officials however are not entirely in the clear because the Office of the Ombudsman is conducting its separate investigation which will focus on them.
The Office of the Ombudsman also mentioned the "Davao Group" in its last statement related to their investigation.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV linked Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte to the so-called Davao Group, but the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is poised to clear him, according to a draft report by chairman Richard Gordon.
NBI operatives cleared
The DOJ panel also cleared officials of the NBI-Anti Organized Transnational Crime Division or NBI-AOTCD.
“The Panel finds that, under the circumstances attendant to the case, and pursuant to relevant Dangerous Drug Board (DDB) Regulations and jurisprudence, the NBI-AOTCD is justified to retain custody of the 500 kilograms of shabu which they seized, examined and investigated,” the DOJ said.
The DOJ also cleared corporate officers of Hong Fei Logistics and the factory caretaker Emily Anoche-Dee. “The Panel finds lack of knowledge on the part of Emily that her property was being rented" and would be "used as a transshipment point of the subject drugs,” the DOJ said.
Even though the DOJ dismissed the NBI’s complaint against the other caretaker, Fidel Anoche-Dee, he still has a pending charge earlier filed against him by PDEA.
The DOJ, noted, however that based on procedure, the dismissal of complaints against the cleared officials will be subject to automatic review by Aguirre. – Rappler.com