Cebu News

DOJ indicts broker, importer of ‘ukay-ukay’

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended the filing of criminal charges against a Cebu-based customs broker and a consignee for alleged importation of ukay-ukay or used clothing.

DOJ assistant State Prosecutor Loverhette Jeffrey Villordon in his five-page resolution dated September 27, 2023 has recommended for charges to be filed against Jomar S. Lobitana and a certain Susan Patton.

In his resolution, Villordon recommends the filing of cases against the two for: (1) violation of Section 1430, in relation to Section 118(g), of the Customs Tariff Modernization Act and, (2) violation of Section 1, in relation to Section 2, of R.A. No. 4653 or An Act to Safeguard the Health of the People and Maintain the Dignity of the Nation by Declaring it a National Policy to Prohibit the Commercial Importation of Textile Articles Commonly Known as Used Clothing and Rags.

The resolution was signed and endorsed for approval by DOJ Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Officer-in-Charge of Division IX Robert Ong, Jr. and was approved by DOJ Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento.

The said resolution stemmed from the complaint filed by the Bureau of Customs Action Team Against Smugglers (BATAS), through its Customs Operations Officer (COO) Edy Neil Camalongay, against Patton, Lobitana, and some other unknown individuals.

On August 15, 2022, a shipment arrived at the Port of Cebu from Sydney. Patton was the consignee named in the shipment while Lobitana was the licensed customs broker for the said shipment.

When the shipment arrived, Lobitana, as the licensed customs broker of Patton, lodged and filed the Informal Import Declaration and Entry for the shipment that reportedly contained household goods and personal belongings.

But when Camalongay did a physical examination of the shipment on August 18, 2022, the result showed that the shipment actually contained 60 bales of used clothing or ukay-ukay.

Camalongay said that the shipment was obviously misdeclared and contained goods explicitly prohibited by law.

During the preliminary investigation hearings held on November 18 and 24, 2022, only representatives from BATAS appeared. Patton and Lobitana failed to appear despite notice.

After thorough review of the records of the case, the DOJ Prosecutor Villordon found probable cause against Patton and Lobitana for the mentioned violations.

Based on Section 1, in relation to Section 2, of R.A. No. 4653, “it shall be unlawful for any person, association, or corporation to introduce into any point in the Philippines textile articles commonly known as used clothing and rags.”

Based on the said law, the penalty of such violation is not less than P200 nor more than P20,000 and imprisonment of not less than two years nor more than five years.

Also based on the Bill of Lading of the said shipment and the Informal Import Declaration and Entry, Patton was not only the consignee of the shipment, but was also the shipper for the same.

“Clearly, she, together with her customs broker, respondent Lobitana, facilitated the introduction of sixty (60) bales of used clothing into the Philippines. This is a clear violation of R.A. No. 4653,” part of the resolution reads. – /ATO (FREEMAN)

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