Ex-Customs chief Lina sued for graft

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Claiming injury suffered by his firm, a businessman has filed graft charges against former Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner Alberto Lina before the Office of the Ombudsman.

In his complaint, Mannage Resources Trading Corp. (MRTC) president Lawrence Daniel Sy also named Run After the Smugglers program executive director Erwin Mendoza, Revenue Collection Monitoring Group deputy commissioner Arturo Lachica, Ruling and Research Division-Legal Service chief Reynaldo Yacat and Ruling and Research Division legal officer Francis Tolibas as respondents to the case.

The complainant claimed that the BOC officials, together with private respondents Roberto Cola, Jesus Arranza and William Ranaga who were identified as officials and members of the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI), unlawfully imposed additional requirements on his shipment last April, thereby delaying its release by almost two months.

Sy said his firm’s shipment of 4,929.383 metric tons of deformed steel bars on board MV Well Faith arrived at the Port of Subic on April 23, but was held because of an alert order from the Intelligence Group of the BOC.

He claimed that the alert order was prompted by letters from PISI president Cola that were sent to the BOC, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bureau of Product Standards alleging that the steel shipment was illegal for being substandard and having improper documentation.

But Sy said DTI-Zambales provincial director Leonila Baluyut issued a provisional Import Commodities Clearance certificate on the shipment dated April 18, 2016 while the BPS issued a final ICC on May 19, 2016.

Despite the clearance and a test result number conducted by the Metals Industry Research and Development Center, “MRTC was refused and denied of the final assessment by the Bureau of Customs at the Port of Subic which prevented payment of taxes for the formal entry of the shipment,” supposedly because the alert order was still in effect.

Sy said he was under contract with Topway Builder Inc. to supply and deliver the 4,929.383 MT of steel bars for the agreed price of P154,582,200 but because of the delay, the buyer eventually backed out of the deal and transacted with another supplier.

“In sum, the action of Commissioner Lina, in conspiracy with attorneys Mendoza, Lachica, Tolibas and Yacat and private respondents Cola, Arranza and Ranaga, gave unwarranted benefits to other companies in the same line of business, specifically those under PISI,” the complainant said.

Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan postponed yesterday the scheduled arraignment of former BOC chief and now Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Biazon who is facing graft, malversation of public funds and direct bribery charges for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.

Magistrates of the anti-graft court’s Seventh Division decided to defer the proceedings because of the pending motion for reconsideration of the denial of the lawmaker’s motion for judicial determination of probable cause.

The Sandiganbayan proceeded with the arraignment of his co-accused, including alleged pork barrel fund scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles, former Technology Resource Center group manager Francisco Figura, former TRC budget officer Lilian Espiritu, former TRC chief accountant Marivic Jover and former TRC internal auditor Maurine Dimaranan, who all entered not guilty pleas.

Biazon is accused of misusing his priority development assistance fund (PDAF) allocations when he was also congressman of Muntinlupa in 2007 with former lawmaker and former Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairperson Zenaida Ducut acting as his alleged collector for kickbacks or commissions.

The scheduled arraignment of former Oriental Mindoro representative Rodolfo Valencia in the same Sandiganbayan court was also deferred for the same reasons that he has motions still awaiting decision.

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