Lina to divest from businesses, says Palace
MANILA, Philippines–Newly appointed Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina, who is facing conflict of interest issues due to his ownership of companies that do business with the Bureau of Customs (BOC), will not get any special treatment.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Sunday told the Inquirer that Lina, who is chair of the Lina Group of Companies, will be required to “comply with all applicable laws and government regulations.”
Contacted before he left for Malaysia, along with President Aquino and the Philippine delegation to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, Coloma indicated that Lina would be asked to divest himself from his business interests while serving in the Department of Finance-attached agency.
According to Coloma, Lina’s priorities were the following: To continue the institutional reforms at the bureau; ensure the BOC meets revenue targets; and to align the bureau’s trade facilitation efforts with the Philippines’ and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ integration goals.
Citing a conflict of interest, members of the so-called “reform team” at customs had asked Lina to make good his promise of full transparency in running the bureau by disclosing all his business interests and making sure they did not interfere with his official functions.
Aside from Air 21, a logistics firm, the Lina Group of Companies includes U-Freight Inc., Cargohaus, E-Konek, U-Ocean Inc., Lina Farms, LGC Logistics, 2100 Customs Brokers, Linaheim Properties, Linaheim Corporate Travel and Tours, and Credit Solutions and Business Alliances, among others.
Lina was also a donor to the 2013 election campaigns of Sen. Bam Aquino, the President’s cousin, and former President Joseph Estrada.
A customs official, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak to the media, assailed Malacañang’s appointment of Lina despite his having businesses that dealt with the BOC.
In a text message, the source said: “Anyare sa daang matuwid? Balik wang-wang na rin? (What happened to the straight path? Are we back to using sirens?), referring to the entitlements many officials feel is their right.
The source doubted Lina would totally divest from all his businesses.
On Thursday, President Aquino appointed the businessman the new customs chief, replacing John Phillip Sevilla.
Lina’s appointment papers were reportedly signed by the President the same day he accepted Sevilla’s resignation.
Sevilla claimed he quit due to “political pressure” to come up with funds for the administration Liberal Party’s election kitty next year. He later denied this.
In a news conference at the BOC office in Port Area, Manila, Sevilla also mentioned the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) as the group that wanted its own people in key positions at the agency.
“There’s a strong push for the promotion of their men to very powerful positions here at customs. When these things happen, I become suspicious of their motives,” Sevilla had said.
What Went Before: Alberto Lina’s previous ties to BOC
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