MANILA -- The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday junked the motion filed by former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon seeking to dismiss the charges filed against him and 11 other Customs officials by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) over the PHP6.4-billion shabu shipment seized in Valenzuela City last May 26.
“To reiterate, it has been the consistent position of this Department that it has jurisdiction to conduct preliminary investigation for offenses covered by Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, as amended even if the offender is a public officer with a salary grade above 27,” read the four-page order signed by the panel of prosecutors conducting the preliminary investigation over the criminal complaints.
The panel of prosecutors are Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes, who sits as the chair, and Assistant State Prosecutors Rodan Parrocha and Susan Azarcon.
The DOJ panel explained that RA 9165 “confers exclusive jurisdiction to the Regional Trial Court over drug case”.
Citing Section 90 of RA 9165, the panel said it provides that “(t)he Supreme Court shall designate special courts from among the existing Regional Trial Courts in each judicial region to exclusively try and hear cases involving violation of this act”.
“Likewise, certain provisions of RA 9165 indicate that the Regional Trial Court has jurisdiction regardless of the position of the offender public officer,” it pointed out.
Apart from this, the panel said the motion is classified as a prohibited pleading under Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which states that “(t)he respondent shall not be allowed to file a motion to dismiss in lieu of a counter-affidavit”.
“For this reason alone, respondent Faeldon’s motion, filed through counsel, should have outrightly been dismissed because it is clearly in the nature of a Motion to Dismiss couched and argued in a different manner,” it stated.
In a motion submitted to the DOJ, Faeldon cited the Sandiganbayan Law, saying that for an official to be under its jurisdiction, the following requisites must exist: the public officer or employee occupies the position corresponding to salary grade (SG) 27; and the crime is committed by the public officer or employee in relation to his office.
Because of the dismissal of his motion, Faeldon appeared before the panel Thursday to file his counter-affidavit in response to the allegations against him.
Faeldon submitted a 27-page counter-affidavit denying the allegations hurled against him.
Faeldon branded the complaint filed by Norman Balquiedra, chief of the PDEA’s Seaport Interdiction Unit as “ludicrious, laughable and baseless”.
He questioned the authority of Balquiedra to represent the PDEA in the complaint, considering his failure to attach a written authorization from the agency’s director general to file the complaint.
“The lack of written authorization is not curable by mere amendment of the complaint, but shall be a cause for the dismissal of the complaint without prejudice,” Faeldon said.
“Accordingly, since this Balquiedra was not authorized by the PDEA to file this complaint, then it is considered as not filed and ineffectual, and as a necessary consequence, is dismissable due to lack of jurisdiction,” he added.
Faeldon explained that Balquiedra even failed to allege in his complaint that he was present during the commission of the supposed crimes being attributed to him and the other respondents.
“His allegations being mere imaginations, or worse hallucinations, are wholly insufficient to sustain the view of herein respondent’s culpability, even remotely or indirectly, as his imagination cannot be considered as proceeding from his personal knowledge,” the former BOC chief said.
Faeldon also noted that Balquiedra failed to provide documentary and testimonial evidence to support the complaint.
“From the foregoing, it is clear that the facts and circumstances could never engender a belief in a reasonable mind that I am in any way responsible for the alleged offenses. With this, it is a matter of necessity that this criminal complaint be dismissed for total absence of probable cause,” he said.
Aside from Faeldon, also named as respondents in the PDEA complaint were former Customs Investigation and Intelligence Service chief Neil Anthony Estrella; former BOC director Milo Maestrecampo; intelligence officers Joel Pinawin and Oliver Valiente; Manila International Container Port district collector lawyer Vincent Phillip Maronilla; Faeldon's fiancée, lawyer Jeline Maree Magsuci; and BOC employees Alexandra Ventura, Randolph Cabansag, Dennis Maniego, Dennis Cabildo and John Edillo, have been summoned to appear during the proceedings and answer the allegations against them.
Apart from Faeldon, 24 respondents filed their counter-affidavits including Chen, Estrella, customs fixer Mark Taguba, customs broker Teejay Marcellana, detained businessman Kenneth Dong and five National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officers.
Maestrecampo will submit his counter-affidavit on Oct. 24 after the three-man panel of prosecutors granted his request, citing missing annexes to the PDEA complaint.
PDEA, meanwhile, will file its reply to the counter-affidavits on November 3.
The PDEA also charged them with violation of the Anti-Graft Law for allegedly “causing any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”
In the same complaint, the PDEA filed illegal drug importation charges under RA 9165 against alleged importers and facilitators of the shabu shipment – Chen Ju Long, Chen Rong Juan, Manny Li, Kenneth Dong, Taguba, Marcellana, Eirene May Tatad, Emily Dee, Chen I-Min and Jhu Ming Jyun.
It also included in the charge sheet the directors and officers of Hong Fei Logistics Inc., the warehouse where the shabu shipment was seized – Genelita Arayan, Dennis Nocom, Zhang Hong, Rene Palle, Richard Rebistual, and Mary Rose dela Cruz.
PDEA's complaint is separate from the complaint for drug smuggling filed by the NBI against the importers and brokers of the shipment, which is already undergoing preliminary investigation before the DOJ.
The two separate complaints have been consolidated by the DOJ. (PNA)