La Union Customs officer, 3 brokers faces graft raps for technical smuggling of P20.7M worth of fertilizer

Posted in: Press Releases- Mar 13, 2012 No Comments

A Customs officer is facing preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman after an involvement in a highly irregular importation of fertilizers into the country which were not accordingly imposed with customs taxes and duties.

 The Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) bared in its Complaint dated March 9, 2012 that JOCELYN MENDOZA ESTIGOY, a Customs Operations Officer at Poro Point, San Fernando, La Union, committed violations of Section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as amended, and Section 1403 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines as a consequence of her palpable and erroneous mistake of granting tax exemption to Norsk Hydro (Phils.) Inc. for its shipment which consisted of 8,199.80 metric tons of Prilled Urea, based on a forged Certificate of Eligibility dated 22 August 2001 allegedly issued by one Bienvenido N. Torralba, presumed OIC-Director of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC).

 After a thorough verification with the PCC, Libertado C. Cruz, Executive Director, certified in his letter dated June 8, 2011 that PCC “does not have any employee/officer by the name of Bienvenido N. Torralba” and that it “has no services or activities that relates to the purchase of fertilizers outside the Philippines.” The fake tax exemption resulted to a loss of P20, 766, 667.00 in unpaid taxes and duties for Customs Poro Port in San Fernando, La Union.

 Supporting documents secured by RIPS showed that Norsk Hydro’s customs broker, Marivic Briones of Skyrider Customs Brokerage, did not remit to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) the former’s payment of duties and taxes for its shipments and even conspired with a certain David Banga of Jesurito Pareja Brokerage and Benjamin P. Valic of BP Valic Customs Brokerage in presenting falsified Certificates of Eligibility which purportedly emanated from PCC.

 Briones, Banga and Valic, along with several unidentified persons, were also charged for multiple counts of technical smuggling under Section 3602 of the Tariff and Customs Code, as amended, and Falsification of Official Documents under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code, by the Bureau of Custom’s Internal Inquiry and Prosecution Division – Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), through its Legal Officer/Investigator, Atty. Rey Roland Bergado.

 The Finance Department’s anti-graft unit obtained a copy of Estigoy’s sworn statement in which she justified her non-imposition of customs duties and taxes upon previous transactions with the said Norwegian fertilizer importer/distributor whose imported shipments in the past were treated as tax-exempt articles. It further averred in its complaint that in the assailed transaction, Estigoy merely collected a minimal sum of P1,000.00 as import processing fee for the entire shipment.

 Underscoring Estigoy’s culpability, RIPS pointed out in its complaint that, “Unfortunately, respondent merely relied on said Certificate of Eligibility and accepted it at face value in granting the tax exemption even though it is her duty to indorse the same to the proper agency for verification. Hence, respondent had been grossly negligent in the performance of her duty as Examiner which deprived the government of substantial revenue. As Examiner, respondent is expected to observe and abide by the provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.”

 Respondent’s illegal acts also gave rise to violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019, as amended, which penalizes the act of “causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”

 DOF-RIPS likewise seeks Estigoy’s administrative indictment for Gross Neglect of Duty, a grave offense punishable by Dismissal from service as provided under  Section 52 (A)(2), Rule IV of Resolution No. 991936, otherwise known as the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS).

 Estigoy may be placed under preventive suspension without pay pending investigation of the administrative and criminal cases against her in accordance with “The Ombudsman Act of 1989”, Section 24 thereof. 

To date, RIPS has initiated one hundred one (105) graft and lifestyle cases against one hundred forty one (146) personalities, sixty (60) of whom were suspended from office while twenty one (21) of them were dismissed from service.

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