SENATOR Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said lack of witnesses compelled him to suspend the inquiry into the tara or bribe system in the Bureau of Customs (BoC), which still exists according to the testimony of Customs chief Isidro Lapeña.
Gordon said there were no direct evidence and witnesses against officials accused by Sen. Panfilo Lacson of getting kickbacks.
“May evidence sa tara, inamin na nga ni Commissioner Lapeña na hanggang ngayon me tara pa. Walang nagsasabi na binigyan ko si ganito ng ganitong pera, ‘yun ang problema ko,” Gordon said.
He said he will put in his committee report the findings that not a single witness surfaced against those tagged by Lacson.
“It is not that we are unable to find anything, there were no witnesses forthcoming from the principal sponsor. I think si Senator Lacson ang nakakaalam, kung meron siyang alam dapat sinabi na niya,” he said.
Gordon said he did not close the probe and it will remain open.
“The committee hearing will be suspended pending the next hearing but the probe will remain open so that every quarter we can get progress reports from Customs and BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) sa lahat ng nadiskubre natin dito,” Gordon said.
For his part, Lacson said that he will await the committee report of Gordon on the BoC inquiry.
“That’s his opinion. My sources, most of whom are insiders at Customs, say otherwise. And I stand by my sources... Let’s wait for his committee report. And let’s see,” said Lacson when asked on the claims of Gordon that there is no evidence of tara recipients.
During the hearing, Customs Deputy Commissioners Natalio Ecarma III and Edward James Dy Buco strongly denied Lacson’s accusation that they had been receiving “tara” or bribes from smugglers.
“Thank you for finally giving me this opportunity to answer the unfair and false allegations in the Honorable Lacson’s privilege speech, that I’m involved in corruption in the bureau by collecting tara,” Ecarma told the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.