Ombudsman asked to suspend Customs chief over P650-M deal
A business entity that filed a plunder case against Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina has asked the Office of the Ombudsman to preventively suspend the official from his post on the basis of “strong” evidence against him.
“Evidence of respondent Lina’s guilt is strong. The charge against Lina involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty; and respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him,” Omniprime Marketing Inc. said in a motion filed on Monday.
The complaint, which was filed last July, included former Customs Commissioner Guillermo Parayno Jr. and former Customs Deputy Commissioner Primo Aguas as respondents.
The officials were accused of plunder, graft and violation of the procurement law over a P650-million deal for a modern integrated Customs processing system that was allegedly canceled.
Omniprime was among the prospective bidders for the project.
All bidders except for the joint venture were disqualified in December 2014, Omniprime representative Annabelle Margaroli earlier said when the complaint was filed.
According to the complainant, Aguas allegedly intervened in the bidding process by imposing an interview with the joint venture of Omniprime and Intrasoft even when its proposal had been already chosen as the highest rated bid, and “delayed the negotiation, awarding and the signing of the contract” in violation of the procurement law.
The joint venture won the public bidding last April 13 and the deal was eventually sealed for approval but Lina–who replaced John Sevilla as head of the Bureau of Customs on April 24–allegedly canceled the deal.
Conflict of interest
Omniprime slammed Lina for “crystal-clear conflict of interest,” saying the alleged cancellation also “unduly benefited losing bidder E-KonekPilipinas… and gravely prejudiced the joint venture of Omniprime Marketing Inc. and Intrasoft International Inc. that has been declared the highest rated bid and with whom the DBM Procurement Service Bids and Awards Committee have already negotiated.”
Parayno is the president of E-Konek.
In its motion seeking Lina’s preventive suspension, Omniprime said, “First, the unwarranted benefits which the cancelation of the bidding procedure for the NSW [National Single Window] 2 Project upon his assumption as Customs Commissioner bestows upon his very own E-KonekPilipinas, a losing bidder in such procurement,is patently abject. E-KonekPilipinas, a corporation 96.47 percent of the shareholdings of which is held by respondent Lina himself, stand to benefit from the continuous use of the current Customs electronic or mobile system as a Value Added Service Provider.”
Attached to the motion is the General Information Sheet of E-Konek dated April 23, 2015.
“The cancelation also deprives [Filipinos] of a much deserved transparent, efficient and graft and corruption-free Customs service,” Omniprime said.
It added that the cancelation of the bidding for the project was “oppressive and has done injustice to complainant’s joint venture whose rights as a bidder were clear and apparent.”
The firm mentioned in its motion that the Manila Regional Trial Court issued a writ of preliminary injunction last August 24 in a civil case (Joint Venture of Omniprime Marketing Inc. and Intrasoft International Inc. versus DBM Procurement Service, et al.).
According to Omniprime, issuance of the order established “the clear legal right of the joint venture to which complainant belongs, the violation of such right by respondent Lina, and the grave irreparable damage suffered by the joint venture.”
“In issuing the writ of preliminary injunction, the presiding judge then found that the joint venture, of which complainant is the local counterpart, suffered injustice ‘out of the sudden cancellation following years of long and rigorous bidding process for its qualification…,’” it said.
The firm cited the testimony in the civil case of Customs officer-in-charge and Deputy Commissioner Angelica Sarmiento of the bureau’s Management Information System and Technology Group , which supervises the bureau’s operating system, in saying there was no justification for the cancelation.
Based on the motion, the witness answered in the negative when asked if there was a change of circumstances that would no longer require the project.
Omniprime said Lina’s continued stay in office “will pose a threat to the integrity of records involved in this case and expose witnesses to influence.”
“Besides that prejudice may result in respondent Lina’s continuance in office, the General Information Sheet of E-Konek Pilipinas where respondent Lina is the majority owner, the findings of the trial court in issuing the writ of preliminary injunction against the Bureau of Customs and the testimony of Customs Deputy Commissioner Angelica Sarmiento are strong [pieces of]evidence sufficiently convincing to justify the imposition of preventive suspension order against respondent Lina,” it added.
“Wherefore, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed of this Honorable Office to issue a preventive suspension order against respondent Alberto D. Lina, incumbent Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs,” the firm said.
Under the Ombudsman Act of 1989, the Ombudsman may preventively suspend any officer or employee pending a probe if it finds that evidence of guilt is strong and when the charge involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or gross neglect in the performance of duty; the charges would warrant removal from service or; the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.
Preventive suspension shall not exceed six months, without pay.