Seaoil, tanker firm file oil pilferage complaint

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2010 02:13 AM | Updated as of Sep 02 2010 10:13 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Independent oil player Seaoil Philippines, Inc. and Ocean Tankers Corporation (OTC) filed a formal complaint on Wednesday at the Department of Justice against 13 individuals for alleged petroleum pilferage committed in the high seas, meaning beyond the territorial boundaries of a specific local government unit.

Named as respondents in a 14-page complaint-affidavit are: Sunny Boy Regolis; Leomar Tecon; Alberto Galos Jr.; Noel de Leon; Jose Sison Jr.; Jeffrey Magalonga; Roger Guzman; Jose Sianson; Ernesto Galino; Bernie Gamarcha; Isabelito Sancho Jr.; Rusel Acut; Melvin Nacional.

According to the complaint-affidavit, a witness who served as bargeman-oiler for the vessel narrated that the first pilferage or "pa-ihi" took place on October 13, 2009 when Seaoil was set to deliver some 650,000 liters of unleaded gasoline, valued at that time at P26,162,500, for delivery to its depots in the Visayas region.

The barge that carried the load was Barge 811, owned by complainant OTC. It was docked at Seaoil's depot in Mandaluyong City.

Barge 811 was towed by tugboat "Mark Anthony," then under the command of respondent Tugmaster Captain Galos Jr.. All the other respondents were also on board the barge.

The barge and tugboat left for Cebu on October 13, 2009. Barge 811 then was commanded by respondent Regolis.

Two days later, on October 15, the vessels were traversing Jintutulo Channel in Masbate, where the witness reportedly heard and saw Regolis call de Leon, who was at the tugboat, and discussed the plan to steal and sell a portion of their fuel load through "pa-ihi."

Under this modus, oil stored in a cargo tank is siphoned while in transit, and the siphoned fuel sold to a buyer in the black market.

The witness narrated that Regolis also talked to potential buyers operating in the Jintutulo Channel.

The witness claimed that 10 armed men on board a motorized banca boarded their vessels.

Regolis allegedly then instructed the other respondents to assist the armed men in discharging fuel into 20 drums. He also instructed the armed men how to avoid closed-circuit cameras.

The market price for the stolen gasoline was around P161,000 or P40.25 per liter, according to the complaint.

The witness alleged he saw Regolis receive money from the unidentified men after the operation, and that Regolis distributed the proceeds to all the other respondents at P20,000 each. The witness claimed Regolis pocketed P40,000.

The respondents then declared a loss of 8,000 liters of fuel valued at P322,000 upon reaching the Cebu International Pharmaceutical Inc. (IPI). This volume falls within the acceptable "margin of loss" during transport of petroleum products.

Seaoil said losses may be due to natural factors--spillage, evaporation, temperature, left-over fuel in the hose, etc.. But the complainants insist the above-stated loss was definitely not caused by natural factors but was actually pilfered by employees of OTC.

After unloading fuel at Cebu, the vessels proceeded to the Ludo depot, Seaoil's other storage facility in Cebu, to rendezvous with M/T Thai Oil 9. Since this vessel is larger than Barge 811, the barge was used as a "pitcher" by loading fuel from the tanker to the barge and then to the depot. No fuel was pilfered then because this was a short distance trip.

But on October 20 to 22, on the vessels' way to Dipolog loaded with diesel and unleaded fuel, another motorized banca boarded Barge 811 in the vicinity of Carcar, Cebu where diesel was siphoned into 12 drums, and again, payments were made. This loss was worth P76,464 (200L/drum x P31.86/L x 12 drums). Again, this was within the allowable loss margin.

When Barge 811 went back to Cebu for a fresh load of fuel (diesel, unleaded gasoline), the witness claimed it was the respondents themselves who pilfered 4,000 liters of unleaded gasoline to the barge's ballast (compartment that holds water). This fuel had a market value of P161,000 (P40.25/L). However, the supposed buyer failed to show up.

It was at around this point that the respondents suspected that the witness squealed and threatened to place him inside a cargo oil tank (COT) and burn the barge or throw him overboard on their way back to Cebu. But when they were not apprehended, they proceeded to transact with buyers. The buyers did not arrive, which caused Regolis to order his men to dump 4,000 liters of gasoline in the open sea. They could not longer return the fuel to the COT because it was already declared "lost" fuel.

In Cebu, the barge was again loaded with fresh fuel for delivery to Bacolod. The new load was 470,000 liters of diesel and 200,362 liters of unleaded gasoline. Again they pilfered fuel at Jintutulo Channel--15 drums of diesel valued at P95,580 (P31.86/L). This was done as a mistake, the intention was to pilfer unleaded gasoline, which was what was officially declared as "los" fuel (tolerable, allowable loss).

This lead the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)I to conduct an administrative investigation where the respondents admitted their crime.

The complaint asserts that the following were committed by respondents: Qualified Theft (Art. 310 of Revised Penal Code); Oil Dumping and Aquatic Pollution (violation of RA 8550, PD 600 and 979)

The complainants are asking the Department of Justice to conduct a preliminary investigation into the matter for determination of probable cause.