Ombudsman fires 7 Customs personnel, suspends 1

MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Samuel Martires dismissed 7 personnel of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and suspended one in 8 separate rulings he signed last Thursday, August 15, and released to media on Monday, August 19.

It is unclear if the dismissal decisions are part of the investigation that Martires opened after President Rodrigo Duterte ranted against BOC corruption in his 4th State of the Nation Address in July.

The dismissals and suspension were rooted from varying offenses, one of which was failure to flag a consignee which was later apprehended for smuggling shabu.

The dismissed officials and personnel are:

The suspended employee is Customs Operations Officer Dolores Domingo, who was found guilty of gross insubordination for continuing to defy her reassignment to Cagayan de Oro City. Domingo claims the reassignment is a form of harassment that rooted from her dispute with former assessment director Nilo Maestrecampo.

Maestrecampo resigned from the BOC after congressional hearings on the P6.4 billion worth of smuggled shabu. Duterte later appointed Maestrecampo as assistant director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

Domingo is suspended for one year without pay.

Dismissals

Cometa, the special police assistant chief, was dismissed for failing to encode consignee Wealth Lotus as high risk in the bureau's Risk Management System. In March 2019, Wealth Lotus declared a shipment as containing plastic resin, but it was found to have 276 kilos of shabu worth P1.8 billion.

Cometa was found guilty of gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.

Farin, an agent of BOC Zamboanga, was found guilty of gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service for failing to verify documents of cargo trucks which were later apprehended for containing smuggled rice.

Hernandez was found guilty of 3 counts of gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct for an offense way back in 2011. He was accused of allowing transshipment of cargoes without following proper procedures.

"Because of your actuations, questioned shipments covered by approved transshipments were lost or could not be accounted for, thereby depriving the government of its much needed revenue amounting to several millions of pesos," the Ombudsman decision said, quoting the charges filed by the BOC leadership.

Macabando was found guilty of grave misconduct for supposedly trying to sneak out from the airport a clutch bag full of jewelry without invoice or receipt. He was seen getting the clutch bag from a passenger and trying to get it past the customs desk.

Remonde was found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and serious dishonesty for certifying that a package contained refractory mortar when in fact it contained sugar.

Tinaña, a security guard, was found guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for using a trainee who no longer had a contract with the BOC to deposit a total of P179,000 to the Philippine National Bank.

Tinaña claims he just asked the trainee to deposit his earnings, but the Ombudsman panel said, "Money could have come only from inside the customs area, and the surreptitious manner by which the monies were taken out of the customs premises supports the conclusion that the monies are from illicit sources."

Gamboa was fired for being guilty of grave misconduct for extorting P3,000 from a parcel claimant at the Central Mail Exchange Center in Pasay City. The claimant said Gamboa computed her parcel's dues to be at P6,000, but that she was suspiciously asked to pay only half or P3,000. Gamboa did not issue a receipt upon taking the P3,000. 

The 2018 audit of the BOC showed the agency has not learned its lesson from past instances of large-scale shabu smuggling at the ports because it continued to illegally release cargo, "causing undue disadvantage to the government in the form of additional revenues to be collected."

Duterte has threatened to fire a total of 64 Customs employees. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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