UNA: LP fundraising behind Sevilla ‘ouster’ at BOC
The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) has accused the ruling Liberal Party (LP) of exerting pressure on resigned Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla in order to open up the revenue-rich bureau to alleged schemes to generate a P3-billion campaign kitty for the 2016 elections.
UNA interim president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco on Friday said Sevilla’s sudden resignation practically confirmed talk that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) had been under pressure from groups that “wanted to use the agency as their last hurrah for money-making schemes.”
Those groups are moving to have appointees in sensitive positions “cough up P3 billion [for] the Liberal Party’s campaign kitty,” Tiangco claimed.
But UNA, the political party vehicle of Vice President Jejomar Binay, was silent on reports that the political pressure on Sevilla allegedly came from the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) religious sect.
“[The] LP’s pressure on Sevilla was too strong to contribute P3 billion. He and others have felt the political atmosphere in the bureau. It looks like Commissioner Sevilla could not stomach what these pressure groups wanted him to do,” Tiangco said.
‘Preposterous, outright lie’
LP leaders at the House of Representatives said Tiangco’s accusations were without basis and malicious.
“That is preposterous, [an] outright lie and totally unfounded. In fairness to Sevilla, he did not make such an outrageous statement. It was only UNA that concocted that story,” said Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone.
“[The] LP has absolutely nothing to do with the resignation of Sevilla. In fact, Senate President Franklin Drilon came out in the open in support of Sevilla’s retention at [the] BOC,” he said.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, the LP political affairs chair, maintained that “no LP member is involved in Customs.”
“Even Commissioner Sevilla did not say anything about that, except for some political pressures, which could come from anybody or any group,” he said.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has challenged Sevilla to “name names,” instead of speaking in generalities.
“It’s unfair to the administration and officials like me who belong to the Liberal Party. Man up,” he said.
Sevilla on Thursday announced that he had submitted his resignation to President Aquino the day before, saying he could no longer bear the mounting “political pressures” in the bureau.
Malacañang announced the same day that the President had accepted Sevilla’s resignation and that Alberto Lina had been reappointed to his old post as head of the BOC.
Sevilla was appointed in December 2013 to replace former Rep. Ruffy Biazon who was implicated in the pork barrel scandal involving businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and other government officials.
Tiangco said it seemed that the administration was “circling the wagons by appointing people in key government positions like Lina to government agencies that can contribute to [the] LP’s campaign kitty.”
“Bert Lina is known as a close associate of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and both are members of the ‘Hyatt 10.’ And the Hyatt 10 are known to be allied with the Senate President, who is also the vice chair of the Liberal Party,” he said.
The Hyatt 10 is a group of Arroyo government officials who resigned in 2005 at the height of the “Hello Garci” election scandal.
Tiangco also claimed that Lina was “known to have contributed a large amount of money to the campaign kitty” of Mr. Aquino and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas when they ran in 2010.
Lawmakers from the independent and minority blocs in the House of Representatives expressed concern about allegations that powerful pressures had pushed Sevilla to resign.
“Very disturbing,” said Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said Sevilla’s resignation called to mind another key appointment that seemed to have political implications.
“Let’s not forget the recent appointment by Malacañang of an LP stalwart to the PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office), a sign that it will be milked for patronage and the benefit of the ruling party and its allies in the next election,” he said.
Tinio said Sevilla’s exit might mean the same thing at the BOC.
“Sevilla is known to be a technocrat who refused to play along with the entrenched interests in the BOC or accommodate requests of politicians,” he said.
Erineo Maliksi, a former Cavite congressman and a political ally of Mr. Aquino, is the newly appointed chair of the PCSO. With a report from Nikko Dizon
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