The Bureau of Customs on Thursday filed criminal charges against two Koreans and three Filipinos for the alleged smuggling of P33 million worth of sugar that was misdeclared as bitumen, an oil based substance used for road surfacing and roofing.
Charged at the Department of Justice were Eunkyoung Son, president and chief executive officer of Rainbow Holdings Inc. (RHI); Soon Seung Joon, senior adviser; Diosdado Serbio, Jr., executive vice president, Rolando Ambrosio, corporate financial officer, Kathleen May Uy, corporate secretary.
Also included were Trisho General Merchandise owner Patricia Manahan Ong and customs broker Cleth Jay A. Bacay.
The Customs bureau asked the DOJ to immediately conduct a preliminary investigation and file the criminal charges against the respondents in court.
The complaint said 21 forty-footer container vans arrived in the Manila International Container Port (MICP) from July 29, 2015 to July to August 21, 2015 with RHI as the consignee.
Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina said the traders,in connivance with their brokers, misdeclared their sugar importation to evade payment of duties and taxes.
Lina added that the importing firms have no permits from the Sugar Regulatory Administration.
“We are relentless in our battle against agri – smuggling. Customs will not yield to anyone or anything in this campaign against smuggling because we want to help local farmers and help the sugar industry to prosper,” Lina said.
Former Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres was dragged into the case when she was accused of trying to facilitate the release of the seized sugar.
Malacanang on Thursday said President Benigno Aquino 3rd will not interfere in the filing of smuggling charges against Torres, a shooting buddy and provincemate of the President.
The Bureau of Customs confirmed that the agency’s Intelligence Group has recommended the filing of charges against Torres.
Speaking to reporters, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the executive department recognized the independence of the court and would not interfere in the judicial process.
“We have always respected the independence of the judiciary in that regard. Again, regardless of political affiliation, once cases are filed it’s—the court takes cognizance and have jurisdiction over those cases. We have never interfered,” Lacierda stressed.
Reports claimed that Torres sought the release of the imported sugar during a visit to the Bureau of Customs on August 20.
Her visit to the bureau was confirmed by an Immigration agent but Torres denied saying that the proceeds from the sale of the sugar would go to the ruling Liberal Party’s campaign kitty.
JOMAR CANLAS AND CATHERINE S. VALENTE