House Probe on Custom’s 6.5 billion shabu scandal hits a snafu

The “missing” Customs man who was asked by Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala to enter the particulars of the shipment from China unto the Bureau of Customs database failed to show up at today’s Congressional hearing chaired by Robert Ace Barbers.

Customs Risk Management head Larribert Hilario is the one identified by Gambala as responsible for the snafu. Sources say, a Congressman reportedy “secured” Hilario. He is supposed to appear in today’s hearing.

Gambala told Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which conducted an earlier probe into this 6.5 billion peso shabu shipment mess, that, as part of the procedure of the Custom’s Command Center, details of any shipment are inputted into the system by Hilario especially those coming from China. Gordon reminded Gambala and his boss, Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, that it is Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the agency to flag shipments coming from China, of which the two gentlemen recognized.

As Congress sniffs its nose over the stink that the Philippine Bureau of Customs committed when a huge stash of shabby worth 6.5 billion pesos went pass them unnoticed, people are getting tired of the usual verbal assaults by members of the House while BOC officials went on the blame game.

From Senator Richard Gordon’s bombasts to Cong. Harry Roque’s rants, it would seem that these gentlemen are either not really serious in knowing who and what really happened or they are being put under a spell by these Customs officials who happen to be ex-military men.

Gordon confronted Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon by asking him why the agency failed to raise red flags on these shipments, knowing that this was facilitated by a new brokerage firm, and the shipment came from China. Faeldon pointed to BOC official Capt. Gerardo Gambala, head of the BOC Command Center as the one responsible. Gambala explained the procedure and pointed to another official, a certain Risk Management head Larribert Hilario, who was tasked by him to input the information unto the agency’s database. Hilario deliberately did not enter the data which led to these shipments passing thru the port channels undetected.

Faeldon claims that, for several months, the agency has confiscated 8 billion pesos worth of drug contraband, and this is the first time ever that a shipment went pass thru their close scrutiny.

For those who don’t know, there are so-called “colored express lanes” at the Customs bureau. For shipments without suspected contraband, these go thru express lanes. When the bureau suspects that a shipment contains contraband of any kind, the shipment is asked to pass thru several lanes depending on the gravity of the suspicion of illicit activity. Some shipments pass thru xray checking while others are sometimes, manually inspected.

In this case, 6.5 billion pesos worth of methampetamines pass thru the lane dedicated for brokerages without any negative records at the bureau and which shipments do not pass thru xrays or manual scutiny. It was only when Chinese authorities alerted the local bureau that three ships left port to Manila and they all carry suspected contraband did Faeldon and the rest of their group went, and inspected the warehouse where these contrabands were being kept.


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