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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lacson accuses Faeldon as having been “eaten by the system” but is there really a sustained way out of the corruption in Customs? Picture of Cardinal Tagle and a President Duterte listening intently, chin cupped in hand, speaks of the Holy Spirit in action.

President Duterte and Cardinal Tagle meet in the Palace to discuss the need for a summit on the drug problem
Resigned Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon and Senator Panfilo Lacson when they were still talking



The picture is not pretty at all. By some maneuverings within the administration, former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon was forced to submit his resignation two weeks ago amid allegations of corruption in his one year in office. Isidro Lapeña was installed in his place. 

The woes inside the Bureau of Customs, however, are far from over despite the changing of the guard, as allegations and counter-allegations of wrong-doing flew thick and fast between resigned Commissioner Faeldon and the senator who provoked his resignation, Panfilo Lacson.

Lacson had accused Faeldon of receiving a P100 million “pasalubong,” the customary welcoming money when a  new chief comes in, labeling it as part of the “systemic corruption” in the BOC. Faeldon, asserted Lacson, instead of fighting the system, “was eaten up by the system.”

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Faeldon, an ex-military man, however, is not one to take Lacson’s attack sitting down. He has accused the senator’s son and namesake, Panfilo Lacson Jr., of smuggling through the BOC billions of pesos worth of imported cement in 67 shipments, that led to huge loss of revenues for government. Faeldon asserted that the younger Lacson’s company, “Bonjourno,"  which he claims has a measly capitalization of P20,000, has been labeled by the Cement Manufacturers of the Philippines as the “alleged top smuggler of cement.”

Actually few would be surprised at the slinging and counter-slinging of mud between the resigned BOC Chief and the Senator who seeks to protect his son from charges of smuggling. Lacson is buoyed by moral support from his colleagues in the Senate, including Senate President Koko Pimentel.

These accusations and counter-accusations between Lacson and Faeldon remain to be investigated, but exactly in what forum hearings on these hot issues could be taken up remains a big question mark. 

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What's fact is that the Customs Bureau has always been a hotbed of corruption in every administration. The cleanest administration of the BOC I can remember was that of Wigberto Tañada, but eventually word was out that Bobby had become ineffective---thanks to the mafia inside. 

I have long wondered how to rescue that crucial office from corruption, but every time I discuss it with knowledgeable persons, they would simply roll their eyes heavenward. It’s a given---Customs will always be corrupt. 

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Many studies have been made about computerizing Customs transactions and payments in this computer age---so that direct personal dealings where the arreglohan takes place between the bureau's staff and its clients would be minimized. Moreover, there is the daunting fear that computers do leave paper trails---lest those indulging in shenanigans be caught. 

But, you guessed it, computerization has not been effected---as politicians have understandably objected to this arrangement.

 Another resource person I spoke with about the continuing corruption in Customs theorized that the best way is to PRIVATIZE that bureau and let it just pay the proper dues to government. But since that office is such a gold mine for funds for politicos running for office, it is doubtful whether those in power would allow this bureau to slip from their fingers. 

I have also wondered how the more advanced countries deal with their customs office, and I will try to look into this issue.

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What do we make of the recent historic meeting between Cardinal Tagle and President Duterte---if not inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The murder of Kian de los Santos at the hands of two policemen--which has become the purgation of the nation---has to bear good fruit so that he did not die in vain. 

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, outgoing President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a very strong condemnation of the heinous murder of the 17-year old boy---as his position called for. The Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan was quoted in media as assailing President Duterte’s “selective brand of justice,” whereby “the official who was able to kill will be honored. The blame is on the dead victim.” The top prelate lamented further that “Corpses cannot explain or defend themselves from the accusations against them.” 

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Kian's death roused the nation as few issues in contemporary times have (my FB page suffered an overload of entries, overwhelmingly very angry). The guilty police elements were purged, but the Holy Spirit was not satisfied, it seemed, as He moved to inspire Luis Cardinal Tagle to meet with President Duterte on the recent tragedy. 

Unlike Archbishop Soc who is head of all the Catholic bishops and clergy in the Philippines, Cardinal Tagle is not directly in the church hierarchy, and so he could speak his mind as a private citizen. Besides, he has a perpetual smile that sews up his chinky eyes and he could look very amiable indeed. 

That photo of the Cardinal and Mr. Duterte with the latter's jaw propped in his hands as he listened in rapt attention tells it all.

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Church and State chose to meet on this drug/killing issue before it became a truly runaway problem. Cardinal Tagle was smiling and for once President Duterte wasn't snarling. Their thrust is to call a wide conference of the elements involved in this problem and look for earnest solutions; but before solutions could be found, the problem has to be defined in all its angles.

Included here are police abuses, triggered in part by President Duterte's loose bravado in the past, that mistook the culture of impunity for the rule of law. What is being pondered upon between Mr. Duterte and his eminent visitor, according to news, is a multi-sectoral summit on the drug problem, with all the stakeholders to discuss this gargantuan problem and look for solutions.

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This is more typically the Pinoy approach to a problem---a meeting of minds and hearts, not the shooting of innocent 17-year olds. We Filipinos talk and gesticulate a lot. Let's all weigh in in this proposed summit on the drug problem---all stakeholders, and even the estambys' representatives ought to be invited. No holds barred, patience and tolerance ought to be the rule. 

Amid the national despair that we have fallen into as a people---owing to the dastardly deaths before Kian, but especially OF Kian---the Holy Spirit guided Cardinal Tagle to call on President Duterte and a new game is on.

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Not a game of quota killings, but a way to truly eradicate or at least mitigate the effects of this menace in our midst---through a combination of the police force humbled by its inadequacy to handle human frailty, but willing to reform and learn; a bureaucracy that pledges to shun corruption (this is perhaps the toughest bill to fill); a President who reveals his soft side after all; civil leaders seeking redemption from their guilt over the menace gone berserk, and beating their breasts in a new resolve; parents advised to play their role with renewed sense of responsibility; and schools that have been less than vigilant with their wards, now more enlightened about their mission.


It will be a national mea culpa but with a resolve to rise from the destitution of spirit. Talking it over is the Filipino way of solving problems and now, after the shock of Kian's death has ebbed somewhat, we must resolve that our beloved country won't ever sink into a narco state, and we recognize that that resolve is in our power to fulfill. 

Each and every Filipino has this obligation to himself and his family, to get involved in this issue of winning the battle vs. the pernicious drugs. Invoking God's mercy and grace, let us work to triumph over the perfidy of drugs and corruption May God bless us all..

1 comment:

  1. Cardinal Tagle will speak out his mind not only because he is a Jesuit with a bent for interesting conversation but also because he is a trained theologian in the mould of Benedict. The depth of his mind will be tested in this talk with the President. Soon, there'll be a change in the campaign of government against the narcotic trade in this country. Duterte must listen to the highest prelate of the land or lose his chance for a profound make-over in his program against drugs.

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