Duterte's anti-corruption body tags NAIA-3 workers in smuggling

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2018 04:45 PM

MANILA - Eight groups composed of government workers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3) are involved in smuggling, a commission tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate corrupt officials said Thursday.

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) identified a “common modus” in the way these groups operate, and said they could be involved in financing terrorists and insurgents.

PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said these groups involve airport workers with the participation of officials and personnel from the Department of Finance, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Customs, and Department of Justice. 

The illegal operations have been going on for “many years now,” the commission said. 

Justice Assistant Secretary Moslemen Macarambon on Tuesday resigned from his post, after Duterte asked him to quit as he faced corruption allegations. Malacañang alleged he could be involved in the smuggling of “gold and other precious jewelry” at the NAIA, the country's main gateway. 

The PACC said Macarambon intervened in smuggling P6 million worth of assorted gold jewelry, weighing 1.9 kilos, by “spouses Mimbalawang” on May 5.

The incident led to the apprehension of the couple and Customs Flight Supervisor Lomodot Macabando, who was shown in a CCTV footage receiving a black pouch from an unidentified man near an airport carousel. 

Macabando was apprehended, and the pouch yielded the alleged smuggled gold jewelry brought in by spouses Mimbalawang.

“Isa lang ito sa walong [groups na] binabantayan ng PACC. Ang modus nagpapasundo sa opisyal para ipuslit ang kanilang kontrabando… The syndicates have legitimate businesses and they have smuggling activities. Mayroon silang legal front,” Belgica said.

(This is one of the 8 groups the PACC is monitoring. The modus [operandi] is an official fetches them so they could bring in the contraband. The syndicates have legitimate businesses and they have smuggling activities. They have a legal front.)

These possibly involve “fundraising activities for illegal activities, possible terrorism and [funding] insurgents,” he added.

One incident “sometime in 2012 or 2014” involved the smuggling of ‘shabu,’ Belgica said.

As to Macarambon’s involvement in the case of the Mimbalawangs, the PACC said he may have served as “padrino” or ‘protector.’

“When ASec. Macarambon Sr. came to Customs, nahuli na po 'yung smuggling operation. When he intervened, 'yung P6 million (value of jewelry, inclusive of duties and taxes) naging P1.3 million. 'Yun malinaw po 'yun,” Belgica said. 

(When Macarambon came to Customs, the smuggling operation was busted. When he intervened, the P6 million became P1.3 million. That much is clear.)

In a statement, Macarambon earlier said he merely asked the Bureau of Customs to re-compute the taxes of his “daughter-in-law’s parents” over gold and jewelry taxed at P6 million. He confirmed that the taxes were brought down to P1.38 million.

The PACC, however, said no negotiation for payment of taxes should have been made in the case because the subject jewelry were “not declared” but were “smuggled.”