By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently conducting a review whether to endorse to the Office of the Ombudsman the complaint against former Customs Commissioner and current Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Isidro Lapeña.
Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon said this on Monday after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed the complaint against Lapeña on Nov. 12.
“It is undergoing review,” Fadullon said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he will let state prosecutors determine whether the case should undergo preliminary investigation at the DOJ or with the Ombudsman.
“Our state prosecutors will resolve this issue shortly,” the secretary said Monday.
The complaint stemmed from the illegal release of over 105 container vans containing mostly of ceramic tiles worth around P69 million from the Port of Manila (POM) in March.
In its complaint, the NBI accused Lapeña of violating Section 3, Paragraph (e) of Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Aside from this, the NBI also recommended Lapeña “be administratively charged with Gross Neglect of Duty and Grave Misconduct.”
“The manifest indifference of Lapeña to the established rules and procedures has led to the release of the shipments, escaping the revenues that the Republic of the Philippines is entitled to,” read the complaint.
“These, when taken together, signifies the intention of Lapeña to cause injury to the government and took advantage of his office,” it added.
The container vans were the subject of manual alert orders (MAO) but were which were released by Asia Terminals Inc. (ATI) based on forged release orders.
The NBI pointed out Lapeña issued MAO even though the electronic to mobile (e2m) system “was accessible and fully operational.”
The NBI explained “the electronic to mobile system or the e2m is a tool of the Bureau of Customs that makes use of advanced technology including electronic signatures to provide government officials with new tools to enable them to make dramatic improvements in security, trade efficiency and to fight corruption.”
It said MAO may only be issued under the following instances: the e2m system is not accessible; for unmanifested cargoes or shipment; for entries of informal entry; and for export cargoes.
“Further, no Alert Order shall be issued against shipments which have been already tagged in the On-Line Release System (OLRS). The Alerting Office who finds reasonable grounds to hold a shipment already tagged in OLRS, shall make a recommendation to the Office of the Commissioner for the issuance of ‘Special Stop’,” it said.
“With regard to the 105 containers which is the subject of the investigation, ATI presented a screenshot of the showing their status as ‘DUTY Stop: REMOVED.’ which means that they were due for release. The Alerting Office, in this case, the Office of the Commissioner, should have issued a ‘SPECIAL STOP’ order to validly hold the release of the shipments,” the NBI pointed out.
If the e2m was not accessible for being too slow, the NBI said “this does not preclude the Office of the Commissioner to issue subsequent Alert Order through e2m once it becomes operational.”
“Following the procedures strictly could have prevented the presentation of the forged memoranda, thus, the taxes due to the government should have been settled before the release of the shipment,” the NBI stressed.