Ombudsman junks cases vs top Customs officials

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 16 2014 11:56 AM | Updated as of Dec 16 2014 07:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman junked the cases filed by a suspected illegal rice importer against top officials of the Bureau of Customs over the latter's refusal to release its rice shipments.

In a joint resolution, the Ombudsman dismissed Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise's complaint against Customs Commissioner John Sevilla, Deputy Commissioners Maria Edita Tan, Agaton Uvero, Ariel Nepumoceno and Jessie Dellosa, as well as Ernesto Benitez, Jr, Acting District Collector, BOC-Port of Batangas, because the "refusal to heed a court order must be addressed by the Court, not by [the Office of the Ombudsman]."

Bold Bidder had filed cases against the Customs officials for alleged violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, citing the BOC's refusal to release their rice importation despite the issuance of the December 10, 2013 Writ of Preliminary Injunction by a court in Lemery, Batangas.

The company also filed administrative cases against the said officials for violating Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Sevilla welcomed the dismissal of the cases, saying the bureau was only doing its job.

"Our laws are very clear: the importation of rice must be supported by the required NFA permits and we have strictly and consistently upheld this policy. Bold Bidder and other rice traders who imported rice without the required NFA permits have danced around our legal system to try to get their smuggled rice out of the ports. Filing cases against us cannot and will not stop us from doing our job," Sevilla said.

The BOC has already filed smuggling-related cases against Bold Bidder representative Ivy Souza and the firm’s customs brokers Denise Kathryn Rosaroso, John Kevin Cisneros, Francis Rudolph Forneste and Elbert Lusterio for illegally importing over 12.8-million kilograms of rice through ports in Manila and Cebu.

Last September, the Batangas Regional Trial Court had also dismissed Bold Bidder’s petition for declaratory relief against the NFA and BOC, for lack of jurisdiction.