THE investigation of the Bureau of Customs into the disappearance of 2,000 container vans in 2011 was a sham, according to a Customs official.
The official, who asked not to be identified, said one of the investigators was himself involved in the vans’ disappearance.
“It was a sham. The investigator assigned to unfold the mystery was himself involved in the anomaly,” the source told The Manila Times. “The name of the primary suspect was nowhere to be found in the report.”
The container vans, loaded with rice and sugar, went missing while being transported to the Port of Batangas between May and June in 2011.
The anomaly led to the removal of the Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez, the first customs chief appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd. Alvarez had said the government lost P240 million in revenues because of the incident.
He ordered an investigation headed by then Internal Prosecution chief and now Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Fernandino Tuazon.
Tuazon was the former Intelligence Division (ID) chief before Alvarez appointed him to Internal Prosecution.
The probe team recommended the dismissal of 16 Customs men, the filing of criminal charges against 14 private individuals and the blacklisting of all the consignees, brokers and officials of the firm involved in the case.
Dismissed were: Deputy Collector for operations Ramon Hernandez, Pier Inspection Division (PID) chief Raymund Cabigon, and acting wharfingers Samsodin Dianalan, and PID officer Otto Panondiongan, all of MICP; and deputy collector for operations Rey Avelino, PID chief Felix Embalsado, wharfingers Nelson Chavez and his assistant Romarico Tumbaga, all of Port of Batangas; Deputy collector for operations Jose Tabanda, PID chief Gerardo Macatangay, and wharfingers Pandi Hanji Nasser and Edgardo Habacon, all assigned at the Port of Manila, Customs guards Alfonso Reyes and Eduardo Alberto, both of Port of Manila; and Emerlita Garcia and Gil Senen Gamil, of MICP.
When Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon took over as Customs chief, he said he will not accept “hook, line and sinker” the findings of the Tuazon team and would wait for the result of the probe by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
According to Biazon, he wanted to find out the mastermind and who are the people involved. He ordered another internal investigation, this time headed by Deputy Commissioner Juan Lorenzo Tañada.
Tañada submitted his findings to the Office of the President and the Office of the Commissioner but they were never released publicly.
The NBI asked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to investigate 21 Customs officials and employees in connection with the missing containers.
The 21 were Filomeno Vicencio Jr., former director of the Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Section and current Intelligence Group officer-in-charge; former Intelligence Division chief Fernandino Tuazon; former CIIS officer-in-charge Marina Rae Galang; CIIS attorney Floro Calixihan Jr.; former Port of Batangas district collector Juan Tan; Assessment Division acting chief Leonardo Peralta and Ports Operations Division chief Felix Embalsamado.
The NBI recommended the investigation of Customs brokers Araceli Arellano and Diosdado Bagon, Customs representative Ariel Dionisio, importers Loida Jalimao and Wilson Werba, seven employees of Zoom Cargo Base Forwarders, five employees of ACA International Forwarding and two warehouse owners.
The Times source said the Ombudsman is wrapping up its investigation and may soon come out with its findings.