MANILA – The National Bureau of Investigation filed on Monday a graft complaint against former Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña over the 105 containers of ceramic tiles that vanished from the Bureau of Customs earlier in the year.
In a 34-page filing before the Department of Justice, the NBI recommended that Lapeña and one unidentified individual be charged with violation of Section 3, paragraph (e) of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The erstwhile Customs chief was also recommended administratively charged with gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct.
Customs officials reportedly found out in March this year that 105 containers of ceramic tiles from China and other imported products vanished at the bureau despite an “alert order” preventing the items’ release.
At the time, 85 of the supposedly missing containers had been recovered in Meycauayan, Bulacan.
Lapeña was transferred to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority last month amid the legislative inquiry into the alleged smuggling of billions worth of shabu into the country.
Appointed to replace him was former Armed Forces chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
The complaint stemmed from the supposed release by Asian Terminal, Inc. (ATI) of containers covered by an alert order without undergoing the required examination and without the Customs commissioner lifting the order.
The ATI allegedly released the shipments based on “mere transmittal memoranda” and without supporting documents, particularly a memorandum by the Customs commissioner lifting the alert order.
Furthermore, the NBI found that the signatures of the officers purportedly signed the transmittal paper – Antonio Meliton Pascual and Marylyn Estur – were “forged.”
Then Port of Manila district collector Vener Baquiran reported the “unauthorized release” to Lapeña and recommended, among others, that the shipments of AbundanceGain Indent Trading Corp. and other firms be subjected to “continuing alert.”
Lapeña supposedly approved the recommendations.
However, Lapeña allegedly “deliberately violated” what he himself approved when he “interposed no objection” to the release of the said shipments to the consignee in the Port of Cebu “despite being the subject of the continuing alert and the absence of any documents to support or be the basis for its release,” the NBI said.
Moreover, the NBI said Lapeña violated established rules when his office issued a Manual Alert Order (MAO) even though the Electronics-to-Mobile (E2M) Customs system was “fully accessible” at the time.
“The manifest indifference of Lapeña to the established rules and procedures has led to the release of the shipments, escaping the revenues that the Republic of the Philippines is entitled to. These, when taken together, signifies the intention of Lapeña to cause injury to the government and took advantage of his office,” the NBI said.
“The fact that he allowed the release of the shipments in the [Port of Cebu], notwithstanding the Memorandum he issued a few days before he issued the Memorandum to the District Collector of Cebu, giving AbundanceGain Indent Trading Corp. unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference over the other consignee,” (GMA News)