Customs officers, importers behind sugar smuggling attempt face raps

Published August 22, 2018, 6:09 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Betheena Kae Unite

Several customs employees, who allegedly conspired with sugar importers to release alerted shipment at the Manila International Container Port (MICP), were sued by the Bureau of Customs Wednesday.


Criminal charges were filed against 12 customs officers, and the owners and officials of Don Trading before the Department of Justice for attempted smuggling.

They were charged in connection wtih the discovery of 5,000 sacks of sugar at MICP on August 16, which were alerted due to intelligence report but were nevertheless recommended for release. The smuggling attempt was intercepted when the bureau conducted a re-examination after Lapena found out that the recommendation document was purportedly forged.

Some Customs employees, Lapena said, were found to have covered the illegal act.

They fraudulently reported to the Customs chief that they found no irregularities in the declarations in the import entry but when the container vans were opened it showed otherwise.

“I think I have discovered a syndicate in this. This is a significant portion because pinapalusot nila, pinapalitaw na okay ‘yang mga shipment na ‘yan when in fact hindi pala (they allow its release and make it appear that the shipment was okay but in fact it is not),” Lapena then said.

The owner of Don Trading, Dennis Orlanda Narra, and the licensed customs broker, Ameloden Buruan Riga were slapped with six criminal charges for their unlawful importation of sugar with an aggregate value, including duties and taxes, of P13,522,154.1.

According to the bureau they were charged for violation of Section 1403 (Fraudulent Practices Against Customs Revenue) and Section 1401 (Unlawful Importation) in relation to Section 1400 (Misdeclaration) and Section 117 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), Section 3 of R.A. No. 10845, otherwise known as An Act Declaring Large-Scale Agricultural Smuggling as Economic Sabotage, and Article 171 and 172 (Falsification) of the Revised Penal Code.

Twelve Customs employees namely, Customs Examiners Ruel Pantaleon, Raul Cimagala Jr., Vanzandt Remonde, Edmar Batino, and Robert Tuason; Customs Appraisers Jose Saromo, Benjamen Cayao, Leonora Navarro, and Arlene Salazar; OIC District Collector of MICP Fidel Benigno B. Villanueva who approved the recommendation for the lifting of alert orders; Special Assistant on Assessment for the District Collector Terencio Comon; and the Office of the District Collector representative Gerardo Porible who acted as the witness for the false examinations were charged for “conspiring with the importer and broker to facilitate the release of the misdeclared sugar.”

The BOC personnel were also charged with violation of Section 1431 (Statutory Offenses of Officers and Employees) (d), (e), (f), and (g) of the CMTA.

The six shipments consigned to Don Trading arrived in the country from Thailand.

Since August 2017, the Bureau’s Action Team Against Smugglers (BATAS) has filed 54 criminal cases against erring importers and customs brokers.

“The instant filing of the criminal charges does not necessarily mean that we are putting an end to this issue. This is just the first step of our action. Continuous investigation is being conducted and other BOC personnel that will be identified to have dipped their fingers in these illegal acts will be charged as well,” Lapena said.