Trillanes, Faeldon face off in Senate probe into smuggled shabu

MANILA, Philippines – It was a heated exchange between two former military officers – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon – during the 3rd hearing on P6.4-billion worth of smuggled shabu from China.

Trillanes asked Faeldon if there is corruption in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) but the latter repeatedly refused to answer his question. 

Instead of answering the question with a yes or no, as asked by the senator, Faeldon slammed Trillanes for earlier making “preposterous” accusations that he was involved in the controversy.

Trillanes hit back, saying his question was not an accusation, unlike Faeldon’s claims against him during the 2016 campaign.

“You gave baseless accusations during the 2016 campaign. Now I am asking you as a member of this committee, as a senator, these are not accusations. Tinatanong kita meron ba corruption sa Customs o wala (I am asking whether or not there is corruption in Customs). I will cite you in contempt,” Trillanes said.

Trillanes threw the question anew but Faeldon refused to answer it and at some point just stared at the senator.

Senate blue ribbon committee chair Richard Gordon referreed and asked Faeldon to answer Trillanes’ question.

Faeldon, however, reiterated: “In the past few days your honor, they have been peddling stories all over the news, incredible baseless accusations against me and other people. It’s pointless for me to answer this, your honor, because he’s come to his conclusion."

The seeming deadlock prompted Gordon to advise the two to set aside their previous conflict. 

“There may be something between you, may pinagsamahan kayo (you two go back). 'Yung alitan 'nyo, 'wag 'nyo dalhin ang alitan dito. Pagkakataon mo na sagutin 'yan (Don't bring your personal differences here. This is your chance to respond to the allegations),” Gordon said.

Gordon also advised Faeldon to respond so he would not be charged in contempt. "It may appear that you’re arrogant, recalcitrant. You answer the question," he said.

Faeldon still refused to budge, prompting Gordon to suspend the session.

Gordon approached Faeldon during the break and convinced him to respond properly. Faeldon was seen seemingly wiping his tears while talking to the panel chair.

When the session resumed, Faeldon told the panel that he would not allow anyone to “propound” lies against him.

Upon Gordon’s prodding, Faeldon went on to answer Trillanes’ questions, this time, without seeming sarcasm.

At one point, Trillanes repeated a question to him, to which Faeldon responded, “Di kayo nakikinig eh (You're not listening).”

Prior to the hearing, Faeldon told reporters that he never received bribe money at the Bureau of Customs.  (LIVE: Senate hearing on P6.4B worth of shabu from China– Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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