Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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Estrella: Taguba a polluted witness

BOC Broker Mark Taguba

The chief of the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Service (CIIS) of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Tuesday lashed out at private broker Mark Taguba whom he described as a ”polluted” witness in the ongoing congressional investigation into the smuggling of 6.4 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, in May this year.

Neil Estrella, a former Marine colonel, said it was unfortunate that Taguba was given all the leeway to smear some ranking BOC officials, including those appointed by Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, during Monday’s hearing of the committee on illegal drugs by the House of Representatives.

He said his trial by publicity was unfair not only to him and to his family but also to the CIIS men who worked hard to retrieve the illegal drug shipment from a warehouse in Valenzuela City.

“Puwede ba naman iyon na basta na lang magtuturo on televised hearing tapos wala naman hawak na ebidensya? It was so unfair. Kahit sinong tao hindi papayag ng ganoon,” Estrella asked.

Estrella assumed as CIIS chief in December last year only. He was among those pinpointed by Taguba during Monday’s televised congressional hearing as among ranking BOC officials who allegedly received bribes from him.

Other BOC officials implicated were:
Intelligence Group deputy commissioner Teddy Raval
Import Assessment Services (IAS) Director Milo Maestrecampo
Manila International Container Port (MCIP) district collector Vincent Philip Maronilla
CIIS officer Teddy Sagaral
A certain “Major Gutierrez” who passed away last July
A certain “Maita Acebedo”
A certain “Jason” of X-ray division
A certain “Jojo”
A certain “Gerry”
A certain “Alex”
A certain “Sandra”
A certain “Alfred”

Estrella said he categorically denied Taguba’s accusations but he said he would be willing to submit himself to any investigation.

“Kung tumatanggap kami, bakit hinuli namin ang shipment (If we received payoffs, why did we raid the shipment)?” Estrella said after Taguba tagged him as one of BOC’s corrupt officials. He acknowledged that it would be difficult for him to regain the trust of the public because of what happened.

“I’m sure the drug lords are having a good laugh at what is happening to us in the BOC. The question is who really owns that 605 kilos of shabu? Sino ang mga nasagasaan namin dito?” he said.

“My name was not on his (Taguba), only the name of my office. Yet, Taguba was forced to stand and point to us because the line of questioning was leading. Who is the head of that office receiving money from him? It appeared to be that way,” Estrella further said. #

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