Don’t talk to Philip Sy, you may be shocked, says Virginia Torres
Businessman Philip Sy has remained elusive after he recently figured in a controversy at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), along with former Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres, involving the latter’s alleged attempt to negotiate the release of over 60 shipments of smuggled Thai sugar worth over P100 million.
The Inquirer has repeatedly tried but failed to reach Sy for comment. The businessman is said to be a “player” at the BOC.
Torres, however, advised this reporter not to bother contacting Sy to get his side of the story.
In a text message, she said: “Wag na, baka magsalita pa yun kung magkano binigay niya… baka mabigla ka (Don’t bother, he might reveal how much he shelled out… you might be shocked),” suggesting that money may have changed hands at the BOC.
Torres also claimed that grease money was paid by Sy through a “Jenny Munar.”
The ex-LTO official did not provide other details about Munar and the alleged recipients of the bribe. Instead, she clammed up, saying “no talk na lang ako. (I’ll not talk anymore.)”
A customs official, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak to media, said: “Are we talking about the same Jenny who has allegedly made lots of money collecting ‘tara’ from traders and brokers using the names of some customs officials?”
“Tara” is the customs term for a bribe paid for the prompt release of misdeclared or undervalued shipments.
At least two bureau insiders, including a source at the Manila International Container Port, confirmed the official’s disclosure.
Contacted by phone, Torres had admitted going to the BOC Intelligence Group (IG) office on Aug. 20.
Help a friend
However, she said she was only trying to help Sy, whom she described as a “friend,” and that she had no idea she was dealing with shipments of smuggled sugar.
“I reprimanded Philip, I didn’t know it was smuggled sugar. I was told by Philip it was general merchandise,” she said.
But she later admitted in other media interviews that the smuggled sugar shipments belonged to her and that she was looking for a legal way to have them released.
Jerry Ponce, a customs employee, confirmed that Torres tried to negotiate the release of the illegally imported shipments.
In an affidavit, Ponce, the BOC operations officer assigned to the agency’s Warehousing Monitoring Audit office, stated that he came to know Torres through a friend early this year somewhere in Pampanga. Torres hails from neighboring Tarlac province.
Customs Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa earlier confirmed to the Inquirer that the controversial former Department of Transportation and Communications assistant secretary had visited the IG office “to appeal her case.”
Dellosa, a former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, said that while one of his staffers politely listened to Torres’ plea, “the fact that the shipments were in violation of the law cannot be overlooked.”
The IG is currently investigating the case.
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