Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña has placed on floating status seven employees linked to the controversial entry into the country of P6.4 billion worth of shabu through the so-called green lane, which is reserved only for the country’s top corporations.
Lapeña also reshuffled all 15 section chiefs of the Formal Entry Division of the Port of Manila (PoM) in line with his reform program aimed at eliminating the so-called “tara (grease money)” system.
Lapena’s twin directives are contained in Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) B-73-2017 and CMO B-68-2017, issued on September 25 and 27, respectively.
CMO B-73-2017 transferred Customs Intelligence Officers I Joel Pinawin and Oliver Valiente as well as customs employees Alexandra Ventura, Randolph Cabansag, Dennies Maniego, Dennis Cabildo and John Edillor to the Compliance Monitoring Unit (CMU), widely regarded by customs employees as essentially being placed on floating status.
Pinawin and Valiente were among the operatives of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) who separately raided two warehouses in Valenzuela City where 604 kilograms of shabu were recovered. Pinawin was the team leader of the raiding team.
Pinawin, Valiente, and the five other customs employees were also among the 12 BoC personnel, including resigned Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, charged by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency with several drug charges before the Department of Justice in connection with the shabu shipment.
They were accused of conspiring in importing illegal drugs and protecting drug traffickers, in violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
They are also facing obstruction of justice charges for allegedly “harboring, concealing or facilitating the escape” of others linked to the illegal shipment as well as complaints for negligence, tolerance, and corruption.
CMO B-68-2017, on the other hand, transferred the chiefs of Sections 1 to 15 of the PoM to various ports around the country, namely: Blesilda Balagtas (Port of San Fernando), Marietta Lasac (Port of Batangas), Emilita Morales (Port of Legaspi), Jesus Llorando (Poet of Iloil), Sandy Sacluti (Port of Cebu), Clement Cuceuco (Port of Tacloban), Myrna Santiago (Port of Tacloban), Arthur Sevilla Jr. (Port of Surigao), Khalil Manabilang (Port of Surigao), Erwin Xander Bautista (Port of Cagayan de Oro), Ma. Agnes Valencia (Port of Zamboanga), Teresita Deomampo (Port of Davao), Angelie Sealtiel (Port of Aparri), Marife Danguilan (Port of Limay) and Eudes Nerpio (Port of Limay).
Lapeña said the section chiefs of the Manila International Container Port will also be reshuffled.
The BoC chief added that he is also reviewing the printouts of the assessments and valuations made by customs examiners and appraisers in the said ports
He explained that bribery starts from the assessment of goods done by examiners and appraisers at the formal entry division.
“[Tara is] in the assessment. They determine the value of a particular container van. That is why some of the people there continue with the benchmarking system. If benchmarking was used in the assessment of goods it would subjected to further investigation because there is grease money in it,” Lapeña explained.
“If the section chief made such transaction (benchmarking), it is most likely that his underlings are also involved. The dictate would come from the chief, It can be seen on the computer data and computer printout. So if there is benchmark, the tara is there,” he added.
Former PoM Collector Rhea Gregorio and MICP Collector Phillip Vincent Maronilla were relieved for the same reason, Lapeña confirmed.
He said the evaluation of section heads will also be replicated in other custom ports around the country after the crack down at the MICP and PoM, being the biggest collection districts of the bureau.