Customs ‘bribe-taker’ falls in NBI sting

Suspect had 2 guns when cornered; Biazon rues not being told first

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11:37 PM March 9th, 2013

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By: Nancy C. Carvajal, March 9th, 2013 11:37 PM

When trapped in his office, he dashed into a smaller room and locked himself up, ready with two pistols.

Renato Palgan was not escaping an intruder or a robber but agents of the National Bureau of Investigation who were out to get the customs employee for allegedly demanding a bribe.

Palgan, a field director of the Bureau of Customs assigned at Manila International Container Port, was arrested Friday afternoon on a complaint from a licensed broker who claimed that Palagan demanded P40,000 for the release of a container van holding a cargo of linoleum.

NBI deputy director for special investigation services Ruel Lasala said Palgan faces charges ranging from robbery-extortion, graft, illegal possession of firearms, to violation of the election gun ban.

Lasala said the bureau’s Anti-Organized Crime Division led by Rommel Vallejo acted on a complaint from Rose Amory de Luna, a licensed broker, who said Palgan asked for money and offered to release the cargo without subjecting it to an inspection.

Vallejo’s team laid a trap for Palagan inside the BOC compound by instructing the complainant to give marked money to Palgan’s personal secretary.

The agents moved in for the arrest when Palgan took the money from his secretary inside his office.

An NBI source who took part in the operation said a surprised Palgan ran toward a smaller room and locked himself in.

The agents were forced to break the door open and found the customs employee down on the floor in a crouching position.

“A firefight almost took place when we forced our way into the room because the suspect had already pulled out a gun from a bag,” the source told the Inquirer.

An NBI report on the operation said the agents confiscated a 9-mm Glock Pistol, two loaded magazines and a .25-cal. pistol from Palgan.

Palgan failed to produce papers exempting him from the election gun ban, Lasala said.

Owner of 2 houses

Based on records gathered by the NBI, he said, Palgan owns two houses at Freedom Park Hills in Quezon City and in Vittoria Subdivision in Molino, Bacoor, Cavite province.

In a statement on Saturday, however, BOC Commissioner Ruffy Biazon complained that the NBI operation against Palgan was conducted without prior coordination with concerned customs officials.

“I support anticorruption operations and activities by government agencies, especially law enforcement units.  In fact, I continuously encourage the public to report and file complaints against erring BOC personnel,” he said.

“However, I would like to point out that there should be inter-agency cooperation and courtesy in operations such as the recent sting operation conducted against a BOC employee,” Biazon said.

He said the lack of coordination in the NBI operation could have led to a “misencounter.”

“They (the NBI) should have at least coordinated with the Office of the Commissioner (and) other agencies like the military and the Philippine National Police.”

“They should inform me if they have operations within the bureau,” he said, adding that he intends to write a letter to the NBI to formally raise these concerns.

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