Graft raps filed vs Manila port customs collector

By Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 09 2011 07:33 PM | Updated as of Feb 10 2011 08:45 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Finance department employees have filed fraud and graft charges at the Office of the Ombudsman against Port of Manila customs collector Rogel Gatchalian.

Lawyer Esteban Garong said Gatchalian allegedly defrauded the government of more than P3 million in revenues after he facilitated the release of misdeclared goods without paying the necessary taxes.

Garong said through proper training and good intelligence network, he got hold of the gate pass cleared by Gatchalian for a shipment of 17 containers declared as dredgers, but the amount paid was only for 3 containers amounting to P550,000.

"Idineklara nila ang laman daw ng mga container ay dredgers pero nalaman namin na yun kumpanya ay hindi supplier ng dredgers kundi chemicals and plastic products. We were also able to confirm that 17 containers exited at the Port of Manila pero 3 lang ang dineklara at binayaran," Garong said.

He added that it was not the first time Gatchalian was involved in a fraudulent transaction.

In 2008, he was included in the complaint filed by several brokers against Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel for allegedly engaging in corrupt practices.

He was charged with violating provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code and the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Garong called on President Aquino to look at the situation at the BOC, which is said to be one of the government agencies most riddled with corruption.

Ruben Frogoso, another complainant in the case, said Gatchalian used to be a “fixer” at the BOC, and they were surprised that he became a collector at the Port of Manila.

He added that aside from having allegedly strong connections, Gatchalian always name-drops Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in his dubious transactions.

"Parati niya sinasabi pangalan ni Sen. Enrile, I doubt the good senator will condone this kind of action. Maybe he should investigate this as his name is being used by this person."