Customs officer nabbed for P1.5-M extortion
Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A Bureau of Customs (BOC) officer assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was arrested yesterday for allegedly extorting nearly P1.5 million from a businesswoman seeking to claim three shipping containers of secondhand clothes.

Ethel Bernas, 52, was apprehended in a sting set up near NAIA 2 when she received P155,000 in marked money, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Director Benjamin Magalong said.

Bernas’ arrest stemmed from a complaint of businesswoman Jane Louise Balse.

Bernas allegedly offered to facilitate the release of the containers of secondhand clothes or ukay-ukay from Hong Kong and the United States in exchange for P1 million and an additional P425,000 meant for BOC officials.

Balse alleged that after she gave the money to Bernas, the shipment was still not released, with the suspect claiming that certain documents were not signed.

She told authorities that she sensed something fishy when Bernas reportedly asked for an additional P155,000.

Magalong said investigators found there was no shipment and Bernas fabricated the story about it.

Customs police chief Willy Tolentino said while the BOC’s auction division is tasked to auction off seized items, the unit has no authority to release confiscated goods. Republic Act 4653 bans the commercial importation of secondhand clothes.

Bernas faces graft, direct bribery and estafa charges as well as administrative cases under the BOC code of conduct and related civil service laws.

According to the CIDG, Bernas has a standing arrest warrant for two bouncing checks.

Bernas also faces dismissal from government service, effective July 31, but continued to go to work, claiming she filed an appeal with the Office of the Ombudsman. The BOC said she was found guilty of grave misconduct by the ombudsman in a decision dated June 25. – With Rudy Santos                          

 

A BUREAU OF CUSTOMS BERNAS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION AND DETECTION GROUP DIRECTOR BENJAMIN MAGALONG ETHEL BERNAS HONG KONG AND THE UNITED STATES JANE LOUISE BALSE NINOY AQUINO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN REPUBLIC ACT
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