The President's man falls

by  Luis Adrian Hidalgo

NICANOR FAELDON seemed to have a knack for landing in the middle of controversies. Not surprising, as his military career was not without excitement and color.

A former marine captain, Faeldon took part in two coup attempts against the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – the so-called Oakwood Mutiny in 2003 and the Manila Peninsula Siege in 2007, perpetrated by the Magdalo, a group of officers from various branches of the armed forces, to which Faeldon formerly belonged. He was able to elude arrest for both incidents until 2010 when he surrendered. Faeldon was among the Magdalo mutineers who received a grant of amnesty from President Benigno Aquino III. The group’s two known leaders went on to run and hold public office. Antonio Trillanes served two terms in the Philippine Senate from 2007 to 2019, while Gary Alejano served as the representative of the Magdalo Party-list from 2013 to 2019.

As a former soldier-mutineer, Faeldon was out of the limelight until the prominence he gained with his appointment to various posts by President Duterte.

Shabu gaffe at Customs

Rumors at the time included his name among those likely to receive an appointment from then President-elect Duterte. In June 2016, he was indeed appointed chief of the Bureau of Customs (BOC). He vowed institutional reforms in an agency hounded by graft, but a scandal stained his first year in office.

In May 2017, five metal cylinders containing shabu were discovered by Customs authorities in a warehouse in Valenzuela City. Media reports noted that these containers were found to have originated from Xiamen, China. The slipup prompted the House of Representatives and the Senate to launch inquiries on the matter, during which the competence of BOC officials, especially that of Faeldon, was questioned. In August 2017, he resigned his post.

Faeldon was detained within Senate premises from September 2017 to March 2018 after Senators cited him in contempt for refusing to attend the investigations.

Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, talks to an emotional Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon during the 15 August 2017 hearing on the P6.4-billion worth of illegal drugs smuggled to the country from China.  | Photo from Senate, PRIB Photo by Romeo Bugante



June 30, 2016

January 2018

November 2018 to
September 5, 2019

Appointed while detained

Obviously favored by Duterte, Faeldon was next assigned to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in December 2017 as the deputy administrator for operations. The OCD is a disaster-response agency under the Department of National Defense. While still in Senate detention, the former Customs chief took his oath as a new OCD official in January 2018.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described him as “honest, dedicated and competent,” and an “asset to the organization” – but he also said the department did not ask for his appointment. 

Media reports noted the questions raised about Faeldon’s reassignment. Then Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said his appointment to another position “puts a big question mark on the government’s seriousness in fighting corruption.” But the Palace defended the move as “part of the exclusive prerogative” of Duterte. Not much was heard about what Faeldon actually did during his stint at the OCD.

GCTA controversy

Nicanor Faeldon during the ceremonial rites of the 472 trainees of Class Modernos Batch 1-2018 who graduated from the Corrections Basic Recruit Course (CBRC) Training on 10 April 2019 at the parade grounds of New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City. | Photo from the Bureau of Corrections – Public Information Office Facebook page. 

In October 2018, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced that Faeldon was Duterte’s pick as Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s successor as  chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). Duterte signed his appointment papers in November 2018. 

Not even a year after his official appointment, the BuCor chief found himself in the center of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) mess. Faeldon went under fire after news accounts reported in August 2019 the supposed impending release of convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez, the former mayor of Calauan, Laguna. A Senate hearing on September 2, 2019 found that Faeldon had ordered the processing for Sanchez’s release. Faeldon insisted that he was only following the GCTA law. 

Two days later, Duterte fired Faeldon, saying the BuCor chief had “disobeyed” his order. 

It seems Faeldon may have lost Duterte’s favor.

“Sinabi niya bakit ko kinukuha yung mga tawag niya ex (He said why do I appoint, he calls it ex) , ang akin naman former military officers. It’s very dangerous daw kasi I will militarize my administration…G*** ka di ka naman Pilipino, tisoy ka man (Stupid, you are not even a Filipino)…Para kang penguin maglakad (you walk like a penguin).”

President Rodrigo Duterte spoke against Sen. Richard Gordon in his speech
during the 28th Founding Anniversary of Bureau of Fire Protection and 118th year of Fire Service
at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.