More Customs issues for Dellosa to explain

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

In a ranting Letter to the Editor yesterday, Customs Deputy Jessie Dellosa tried in vain to debunk my exposés of wrongdoings in his Intelligence Group (IG). That’s because he resorted to name-calling, innuendo, and evasion. Whereas, my columns of 24 and 26 Mar. 2014 (see philstar.com Archives) detailed 12 instances wherein he:

 (1) Issued alerts on suspected smuggled shipments, only to lift them upon the erring importers’ payment of paltry additional duties, but no fines;

(2) Released contrabands despite discrepancies between importers’ declared value and Customs’ assessed value of more than 30 percent – the basic proof of smuggling in the Tariffs and Customs Code;

(3) Withheld the release of suspicious imports but at the same time cleared the release of goods that were used to conceal the contrabands – another breach of the Code; and

(4) Failed to explain the release of contrabands that his men were supposed to examine first.

Dellosa gave no proof for his boast of having increased Customs collections by P24.5 million in the six months he has been in office. Whereas, I culled from documents two inches thick from his own office to show his IG’s violations of law and procedure. And P24.5 million is peanuts, given the Customs’ hundred-billion-peso collection quota, and the reported billion-peso bribery that goes on in the agency.

Dellosa called my report on rice smuggling “misinformed” but did not say why, merely presuming that “your paper will not give me equal space.” In truth, The STAR published his rants in full.

*      *      *

Since Dellosa touched albeit superficially on smuggled rice, he might as well be asked about his earnestness to release such contraband.

Twelve 20-footer container vans of Thai rice arrived at the Port of Davao late last year. Immediately Customs officers there placed the shipment under Alert Order No. DVO-67-2013 dated Oct. 29, 2013. On inspection, the vans were found to contain 5,400 bags of rice, 840 more than the 4,560 bag declared by consignee Malingas Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

Rice is subject to import duty of 50 percent of the transaction value by weight. Malingas’ declared weight of 198,547,200 kilos was 71,452 short of the actual weight of 270,000 kilos. There was a clear discrepancy of 35.98 percent between the dutiable declared and assessed weights – more than the 30-percent threshold for smuggling. Under the Code, the shipment was to be confiscated for auction.

Yet on Nov. 15, 2013, Dellosa endorsed the release of the rice. His pretext was that P253,893 in additional duties had been collected when the shipment value was raised from $79,800 to $94,500.

The collection of additional duties was a lame excuse for the release. Had Customs seized and auctioned off the rice, the government would have earned more: P4,252,500 (at P45:$1), plus duty of P2,126,250.

At any rate, then-Customs chief Rufino Biazon saw Dellosa’s mistake and called his attention to it in a memo dated Dec. 6, 2013.

Malingas is one of the farmers’ cooperatives to which the National Food Authority had issued import permits in 2010-2012. Recently it was reported to be funded by Davidson Bangayan alias David Tan, the alleged “Goliath of rice smuggling.” Bangayan/Tan’s rice co-ops allegedly used the NFA permits to bring in more rice than was authorized. When the permits expired, these allegedly were recycled as cover for even more illegal imports.

*      *      *

Dellosa needs to be asked too about a shipment of mixed groceries at the Manila International Container Port that he placed under Alert Order No. A/IG/20131018-115. That was on Oct. 18, 2013, when he concurrently was deputy for Intelligence and for Enforcement. His combined units were supposed to examine thoroughly the veracity of the importer’s declaration, due to a tip of smuggling. Oddly, however, Dellosa’s men released the shipment unexamined late in the night of Oct. 21, without the requisite clearance from Customs chief Biazon.

On Dec. 5, 2013, Biazon ordered Dellosa to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the contraband. There is no indication that Dellosa ever rendered a report. For, soon afterwards, Biazon was replaced by new Customs chief John Sevilla.

The consignee in this case is Copperfield Marketing. The firm is linked to Manny Santos who in a Senate inquiry admitted to being a partner of Bangayan/Tan.

*      *      *

Dellosa closed his letter by praising “the reforms being undertaken by our Commissioner (Sevilla).” He said accurate information plays a key role in the success of such reforms.

In which case, Dellosa must be asked for straight info on the matter of his Alert Order No. A/IG/20131113-103, issued Nov. 13, 2013. It covered a shipment of various apparel and toys from Hong Kong, to Hello Multisales Venture in Manila.

A month later on Dec. 11, 2013, Dellosa ordered the lifting of his own alert. This was on the recommendation of his fellow-retired general Alejandro Estomo, head of the Customs intelligence and Investigation Service. Hello was found to have undervalued its shipment. But Estomo claimed that the consignee had paid additional duties, and so was free to leave the Customs area.

Sevilla, then newly transferred from the finance department to head the Customs, didn’t bite. Instead, he ordered a review of the papers. It turned out that there was a 62.4-percent discrepancy between Hello’s declared value and the appraiser’s assessed value – more than double the threshold proof of smuggling.

On Jan. 10, 2014, Sevilla ordered the contraband seized. Again it’s unclear how Dellosa explained himself. What’s clear is that from then on there came a flood of derogatory intelligence reports that Sevilla and the other Customs deputies supposedly were on the take, or “tara.”

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

E-mail: [email protected].

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