A FEW weeks before he steps down from office, outgoing Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina was slapped with a graft case for violating the Anti-Red Tape Act (RA 9485).
The complaint was filed by importing firm Mannage Resources Trading Corporation (MRTC) before the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday but was only disclosed in a news conference on Friday.
The company was crying harassment over Lina’s refusal to release 5,000 metric tons of imported reinforcing steel bars from China despite having been cleared by proper officials of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and Department of Trade and Industry.
When it arrived in April, Philippine Iron and Steel Industry (PISI) President Roberto Cola requested the intelligence division of the BoC to issue an electronic alert against the shipment, claiming that it was substandard due to lack of permit.
The BoC granted the request.
After due hearing, the MRTC was able to prove that it has all the necessary government permits to belie Cola’s issues and have the shipment released.
The Port of Subic in May recommended the lifting of the alert, which until now Lina refuses to abide.
MRTC’s legal counsel Amado Valdez, former dean of the University of the East College of Law, said Lina violated the provisions of RA 9485 when he failed to act on the lifting memorandum within five to 10 days.
“Even after he received this recommendation, until this present time, Commissioner Lina did not lift the alert order, did not write [my client]the letter [if they still have violation]so that they can comply and did not write any action on the importation, which is a violation of Republic Act 9485,” Valdez said.
The importing company also requested the Ombudsman to investigate Cola of possible collusion with Lina for abetting the violation.
It said that the “unlawful act” of Lina and the “unwarranted interference” of Cola had caused undue injury to MRTC “whose reputation and standing as importer of quality steel had been unjustly put in question.”
“Mannage is therefore urging the authorities to determine and curb the existence of a steel cartel which is detrimental to public interest, particularly in the housing and construction industry.
“Otherwise, there will be recurrent artificial shortage of steel supply, increase in the price of steel, and consequently result in the unaffordability of low-cost housing for the general public.”
Valdez said this is only an initial case against the Customs chief as the company is also eyeing to file charges for violation of the relevant provisions of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Philippine Competition Act and Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.