Smuggling case leads to Customs execs’ sacking
DAVAO CITY—The questionable release of cargo that had been misdeclared played a major role in the dismissal of two Customs officials here and the suspension of two others.
In a decision dated Nov. 29 and approved on Dec. 14, the Ombudsman Mindanao dismissed from service Anju Nereo Castigador, former Davao Customs collector who was transferred to Cagayan de Oro, and Alicodsaman Dimasicil, assistant port collector.
Among the bases for the dismissal is the release by the officials of cargo that had not been thoroughly examined.
The cargo release was questioned by businessman Rodolfo Reta, who operated a Customs examination area here, which the Customs officials refused to use.
Reta had sued the Customs officials for terminating a 25-year contract that allowed him to operate an examination area for cargo here.
Reta, in his complaint, said Castigador and the other Customs officials had been harassing him after his employees uncovered several attempts to smuggle in cargo using his Aquarius Container Yard (ACY), the examination area that the Customs had refused to use.
One of the alleged smuggling attempts took place in February 2010, when 40 container vans entered the ACY facility for inspection.
The contents of the container vans were declared as construction materials from Thailand but the vans yielded rice instead.
Employees of ACY prevented the containers from being moved out but Dimasicil, the assistant port collector, issued a clearance that allowed the release of the questionable cargo.
Reta said he brought the matter to Castigador, then Customs chief here, but Castigador simply ordered the transfer of the cargo from the ACY facility to one operated by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
It was at that point when Castigador, through a lawyer, wrote to Reta informing him that the Customs office here was terminating the services of ACY.
In its 24-page decision approved by Deputy Ombudsman Humphrey Monteroso on Dec. 14, the Ombudsman said it found enough evidence to dismiss Castigador and Dimasicil from service.
Marilou Unabia, graft investigation and prosecution officer, also recommended the suspension for six months of Customs examiners Lerrie Natividad and Moctar Amir.
The Customs officials had argued that terminating the services of Reta’s company was in the best interest of the government.
The Ombudsman, however, took note of the February 2010 case. It said the Customs office failed to follow due process in the transfer of the questionable cargo from ACY to the PPA.
It said the release of the cargo and the failure of Customs officials to charge the consignee, Rapzel, were enough basis to determine the guilt of the Customs officials.
The Ombudsman also noted that the order to release the shipment was signed by assistant collector Dimasicil on Feb. 24, 2010, although the shipment arrived two days later.—Ayan C. Mellejor