MANILA, Philippines – Senate blue ribbon committee chair Richard Gordon has restored the Senate protection for Customs “fixer” Mark Ruben Taguba after earlier removing it.
Gordon accepted the motion of Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday, September 11, during the 8th Senate hearing on the P6.4-billion smuggled shabu and corruption system in the Bureau of Customs.
“May I manifest that Mark Taguba be given a new protective custody or protection by our Senate security,” Lacson said.
In response, Gordon said: “There being no objection, all the motions made by Senator Lacson are hereby approved.”
Lacson earlier questioned Gordon’s seemingly unilateral decision to remove Taguba’s protection after the latter implicated the so-called Davao Group in smuggling. Members of the Davao Group allegedly included President Rodrigo Duterte's son and Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and son-in-law Manases Carpio.
Gordon said Taguba’s statement on the two was not related to his decision to remove the Senate protection. He said it was Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Jose Balajadia Jr who requested the blue ribbon committee to lift the protection. (READ: Gordon says Senate removed Taguba security because it's expensive)
"That has nothing to do with it. It was a legitimate request. I take full responsibility for it," Gordon said.
Lacson also moved that Taguba be granted legislative immunity so that his testimony won't be used against him.
He clarified though that the immunity would not apply to criminal charges that may be filed against Taguba.
"Whatever he testifies in this hearing cannot be used against him. It will not extend to whatever criminal proceedings," Lacson said.
Lacson also moved to request newly appointed BOC Chief Isidro Lapeña to submit copies of all alert orders and the lifting of such orders under former commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.
Lacson aslo requested the Senate committee to ask the BOC to submit copies of Letters of Authority (LOA).
"They have been issuing at least 400 alert orders in a month during the time of Faeldon. I want to find out what happened to those alert orders and why those alert orders were lifted within what period of time,” Lacson said.
“What happened to those LOA. Necessarily, may action taken yan. Most were issued to [former BOC intelligence chief Neil] Estrella,” the senator said. (Those LOAs were acted upon.)
Upon Lacson’s questioning, BOC Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala said the fastest time an alert order could be lifted “could be a week.”
"Pag nag-issue ka ng alert order and lift mo in 1 week something fishy must have happened,” Lacson said.(If you issue an alert order and then lift it a week later, something fishy must have happened.) – Rappler.com
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 email@example.com