FORMER Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña is presumed innocent until proven guilty, Malacañang said yesterday after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) slapped graft charges against him over the alleged illegal release of containers filled with tiles in March.
The NBI on Monday sought with the Department of Justice the indictment of Lapeña stemming from 105 containers of ceramic tiles from China which slipped through the Port of Manila despite an alert order preventing the items’ release.
The missing containers were eventually recovered in warehouses in Bulacan.
“No one, friends or political foes alike, is spared in our fight against corruption. The [National Bureau of Investigation] has a mandate to fulfill and its action is proof that the President shall not shield those upon whom a shadow of doubt has been cast,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“Good governance is the hallmark of the Duterte administration and this latest development is a reaffirmation of the President’s commitment against all forms of corruption and illegality,” he added.
Panelo, however, said Lapeña, now the director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), has the constitutional right to be presumed innocent.
“Until and unless proven otherwise, he still enjoys the trust and confidence of the appointing authority who happens to be the President,” the Palace official said.
Lapeña, in a statement, said he was baffled by the NBI’s decision to charge him when he was the one who issued the alert order against the containers.
“What is more unfortunate is that the NBI did not unmask the real people behind the illegal scheme,” he said, adding the BoC under his watch filed charges against those involved in the illegal scheme.
“I leave the development of this case to the [DJ]. I maintain that I did the right thing that was supposed to be done at that time.”
Duterte transferred Lapeña to TESDA last month amid the legislative inquiry into the alleged smuggling of billions of pesos worth of shabu into the country.
Lapeña was succeeded in the corruption-ridden Bureau of Customs by former Armed Forces chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero.