MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang on Thursday, December 28, defended the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint former customs chief Nicanor Faeldon to a new government post, saying the Chief Executive continues to trust the ex-military officer.
"The appointment of Mr Nicanor Faeldon as Deputy Administrator III of the Office of Civil Defense is part of the exclusive prerogative of the President. The President is the appointing authority and Mr. Faeldon, with his new appointment, certainly enjoys the Chief Executive’s trust and confidence, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Thursday.
Roque made the statement in response to criticism over the appointment of Faeldon, who came under fire following the discovery of P6.4 billion worth of smuggled shabu from China, the subject of congressional inquiries.
"Ang Presidente naman bilang abogado ay bibigyan siya ng presumption of innocence at binibigyan siya ng pagkakataon na manilbihan uli sa gobyerno,” the Palace spokesman said in an interview with TV5.
(As a lawyer, the President gives him a presumption of innocence and the chance to serve in government again.)
Duterte appointed Faeldon as the new deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) on Wednesday, December 27, even as the former customs chief remained in Senate detention for refusing to appear before the Senate panel that investigated the shabu shipment. (TIMELINE: How P6.4-B worth of shabu was smuggled into PH from China)
Roque said that Faeldon "can discharge his functions even while detained at the Senate."
Some senators questioned Faeldon's new appointment despite his poor performance at the Bureau of Customs, particularly in the fight against drug smuggling. On Thursday, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said this cast doubt on the Duterte administration's effort to fight corruption.
"The appointment of Nicanor Faeldon to another position puts a big question mark in the government's seriousness in fighting corruption. Seryoso ba talaga ang pamahalaang ito na labanan ang katiwalian o handa silang isantabi ito kung kakampi ang sangkot sa usapan (Is this government really serious in fighting corruption or is it ready to set this aside if its ally is involved)?" Aquino said.
"If the administration is serious in eradicating corruption in the bureaucracy, then it must appoint people with unblemished reputation and not those involved in scandals," the senator added.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV earlier hit Faeldon's appointment to the OCD, saying Faeldom was apparently kept in the administration as he "knows the dark secrets of the Duterte family."
"That's why, even if he is grossly incompetent, he remains a sacred cow," Trillanes said in a statement on Wednesday.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said while he respects the decision, "the President should understand that this person is absolutely ineffective in the Bureau of Customs and was primarily responsible for the lack of systems in deterring illegal drugs from coming through the ports of our own Customs.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson had earlier tagged Faeldon as among the customs officials reportedly receiving bribe money under the so-called "tara" system in the Bureau of Customs.
The Department of Justice earlier cleared Faeldon of criminal charges in connection with the shabu shipment, but he is facing graft and economic sabotage complaints filed by Lacson before the Office of the Ombudsman over alleged involvement in rice smuggling – Rappler.com