Court affirms arrest order vs Faeldon in smuggled rice case

The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has affirmed its arrest warrant against Nicanor Faeldon, President Rodrigo Duterte's former customs chief, over two counts of graft in a smuggled rice case.

Faeldon had challenged the case by moving to quash the arrest warrant issued by the Sandiganbayan last February.

"The separate omnibus motions and supplement are denied for lack of merit," said the Sandiganbayan 5th Division in a resolution promulgated Thursday, September 16.

The court also stood by the bail it set for Faeldon, which was P90,000 for each of the two counts. Faeldon had challenged the amount, too.

"Clearly, the amount of bail for the said offense is set at a fixed amount, regardless of the amount constituting the undue injury or unwarranted benefits alleged in the information," said the resolution, penned by Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Mañalac, with concurrences from associate justices Rafael Lagos and Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.

The case stemmed from a complaint in September 2017 filed by Senator Panfilo Lacson, which alleged that Faeldon approved the release of two shipments of Vietnamese long grain white rice from the Port of Cagayan de Oro to the importer even though they lacked permits. The shipments were worth P18 million and P15 million.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed the charges before the Sandiganbayan in October 2020 against Faeldon, the collector Tomas Alcid, and the officials of the importer, Cebu Lite Trading Inc.

The charges alleged that by releasing the shipments to the importer without permits, their actions cost the government nearly P34 million because those shipments would have been forfeited and remitted to public coffers.

Finding probable cause in the Ombudsman's charges, the Sandiganbayan issued a warrant of arrest last February.

But Faeldon filed in May the motion to quash the charges and the warrant, which he said was "issued purely on conjecture and surmises that only feign probable cause."

The motion also said "perhaps the telling effects on all of us of the COVID-19 pandemic led the members of this honorable tribunal to inadvertent oversight of their duty to conduct a punctilious review of the records of the preliminary investigation."

The court said the motion used "improper language" and sternly warned Faeldon's lawyer Jelina Maree Magsuci that "a repetition of a similar analogous act shall be properly dealt with more severely."

Faeldon was detained for seven months by the Senate for contempt over the smuggled shabu hearings in the upper chamber. The charges against broker Mark Taguba and the Chinese middlemen that resulted from that hearings are still pending before the Manila Regional Trial Court.

After that controversy, Faeldon was moved by Duterte to the Office of Civil Defense in December 2017, and then to the Bureau of Corrections where he was finally fired following the Good Conduct Time Allowance scandal. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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