Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez not quitting; files smuggle raps vs 14 | Inquirer News
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Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez not quitting; files smuggle raps vs 14

Supposedly on the way out, beleaguered Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez on Thursday not only dug in his heels. He kept swinging away.

Alvarez rejected suggestions he resigned and announced the Bureau of Customs had filed smuggling charges against 14 people—including three importers and three customs brokers—for allegedly conspiring in the disappearance of 1,910 container vans while the goods were in transit to the Port of Batangas three months ago.

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“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Alvarez told reporters. “I have asked our people to conduct a deeper probe on this and review all the past transactions of the companies involved.”

He said the alleged diversion of the imported items deprived the government of more than P240 million in potential revenues.

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Alvarez named the importers as Loida Jalimao, owner of Sea Eagle Trading; Lolita Clarin of LCN Trading; and Cecille San Diego, manager of Moncelian Enterprises.

Also charged in the complaint filed in the Department of Justice were customs brokers Arceli Arellano, Merlyne Reyes and Diosdado Bagon who “assisted in the processing and facilitation of the release of the now missing transshipment cargoes,” according to Alvarez.

Eight employees of DG Bagon Customs Services—Mathew Ponce, Percival Santos, Antonio Vinaviles, Rogelio Remillo, Ariel Dionisio, Mark Aguinaldo, one Kristin and a certain Shirley—were included as respondents in the case.

Alvarez also recommended the filing of administrative charges against 14 BOC personnel, including deputy port collectors Jose Tabanda and Ramon Hernandez of the Port of Manila (POM) and Manila International Container Port (MICP), respectively.

Let President decide

Unfazed by a report in the Inquirer that President Benigno Aquino III had already picked his replacement, Alvarez said that to quit “would only make my detractors happy.”

“If I resign, then they would claim they’re now big time and they’re really that influential that they can capriciously ask the President for the head of the customs commissioner,” Alvarez said in a press briefing.

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“I’m not inclined to give them ultimate satisfaction. It’s the President who appointed me. Let him make the decision on this,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Malacañang sources told the Inquirer the other day that former Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozanno Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon had accepted Mr. Aquino’s offer to head the customs bureau, one of the major revenue-generating state agencies.

On Thursday, another Palace source said Biazon was indeed set to replace Alvarez. “That’s the way I understand it,” the source said.

The Inquirer sources, who said they were privy to Malacañang happenings, asked not to be identified, saying they had no authority to speak to the media about such a sensitive matter.

Biazon, a son of former senator and now Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, lost in the 2010 senatorial elections under the President’s Liberal Party.

No vacancy

Curiously, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said on Thursday he still had to ask categorically Mr. Aquino whether he would remove Alvarez and replace him with Biazon, even after Alvarez had said he would not resign.

“I have not asked him about it,” Lacierda told reporters.

He said he met with Mr. Aquino early Thursday but stressed they did not discuss the case of Alvarez.

Lacierda said the last time he asked Mr. Aquino about it was the other day to let him know reporters were asking if it was true Alvarez had resigned and Biazon was replacing him. He reiterated that Mr. Aquino said he was “not aware of any resignation” by the customs commissioner.

“If there is no resignation, there is no vacancy to speak. But let me ask the President,” Lacierda said.

Politician’s hand seen

Alvarez said he would expect Mr. Aquino to personally inform him should he decide to let him go.

“If he deems that my time is up, I will turn over my position in a very professional manner,” he said.

“I have served under the administration with humility and integrity. I will do that until such time that he tells me that it’s over as a replacement is now on board,” Alvarez said.

Without mentioning names, Alvarez said a politician “who has ambitions to go higher in politics” was among those calling for his resignation.

He said the politician “was involved” in the investigation into the disappearance of the 1,910 container vans.

“I think we’re not sending our people a good signal if we ask those exposing anomalies in the government to resign. I think it’s wrong,” he said.

“If we see a problem, we must tell it to the public and see to it that the guilty parties will be charged and find a permanent solution to the problem to ensure that things like this will never happen again.”

Alvarez said smugglers may also be behind moves to oust him. He disclosed he had been receiving threats to his life.

Alvarez admitted that Biazon’s purported appointment “was the most serious one” among the reports that he would be replaced.

He said even Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima had called him for a meeting and that Purisima told him in Filipino: “Partner, this is serious. There are really many people aspiring for your post. My advice is for you to just perform. At the end of the day, performance will be the one that will be considered.”

On the missing container vans case, Alvarez said he had directed Chief Supt. Jose Yuchongco, the customs bureau’s intelligence chief, to ascertain what happened to the cargoes.

According to Yuchongco, the Asian Terminals Inc. had already given him a copy of the trucking companies which supposedly fetched the cargo vans from the POM and MICP in May and June.

Signatures forged

Alvarez said the missing cargo vans were part of the 2,219 steel vans which arrived at the POM and MICP for “transshipment” to Batangas.

He said a report from the then Batangas port collector, Juan Tan, showed only 309 container vans actually made it to the port of destination.

“Apparently, the cargoes were not brought to Batangas and only documents were presented by the brokers. The signatures of some customs officials were forged,” he said.

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TAGS: Antonio Vinaviles, Arceli Arellano, Ariel Dionisio, Batangas Port, Cecille San Diego of Moncelian Enterprises, customs brokers, Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez, DG Bagon Customs Services, Diosdado Bagon, Lolita Clarin of LCN Trading, Mark Aguinaldo, Mathew Ponce, Merlyne Reyes, owner of Sea Eagle Trading Loida Jalimao, Percival Santos, Rogelio Remillo, Smuggling
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