Ex-Customs official, others found guilty of administrative raps

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2019 10:23 PM

MANILA - Former Bureau of Customs deputy collector for operations Ramon Hernandez was found guilty of gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct by the Ombudsman for the unauthorized transfer of 539 cargo containers from the Manila International Container Port to the Port of Batangas in 2011.

In a decision dated August 15, 2019, Ombudsman Samuel Martires imposed the penalty of dismissal from service against Hernandez, or in case of his separation from the bureau, the payment of a fine equivalent to his salary for one year.

It was noted that Hernandez said that the BOC Legal Service, which investigated on the incident in 2018, has “practically nothing” against him as the testimonies and photocopied pieces of evidence are inadmissible.

In the complaint filed by former BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapena, Hernandez approved the transshipment despite violations of procedures such as undergoing x-ray examination.

“It is clear that the reliance of respondent on the Best Evidence Rule is misplaced as it is settled that in administrative cases, technical rules of procedure and evidence do not apply,” the Ombudsman said.

In another decision by the Ombudsman, customs operations officer Lomonto Macabando was also dismissed or ordered to pay a fine equivalent to his salary for one year.

Macabando was found guilty of grave misconduct for receiving from his nephew a clutch bag full of jewelry and hiding it in his armpit.

Macabando said in his defense that his plan was to bring the clutch bag to the Customs office for appraisal.

“Macabando’s act of ignoring the provisions of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act which he ought to implement being an officer of the BOC constitutes willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules that grave misconduct requires,” the Ombudsman said.

Special police assistant chief Jaybee Raul Cometa was also dismissed or ordered to pay a fine equivalent to his one year salary for failure to tag a shipment from Wealth Lotus Empire Corporation which was later found to contain 276 kilos of shabu.

Cometa claimed that he encoded Wealth Lotus as a new importer and there was no written guideline that all shipments from new importers should be tagged as high risk.

“Such is the importance of the duty of respondent in encoding new importers into the Risk Management System, considering that the war against drugs of the government, that he cannot just claim that he did his duty without submitting any evidence to prove that he did so, or to support his explanation why the shipment was tagged yellow and not tagged red,” the Ombudsman said.

Other officials who were also ordered either dismissed or to pay fines of one year salary are customs operations officers Vanzandt Remonde and Vicente Gamboa, special agent Oscar Farin and security guard Renly Tiñana.

Remonde was involved in the certification of a shipment which turned out to be sacks of sugar, Gamboa asked for P3,000 from a parcel claimant, Farin did not verify documents of cargo trucks found to have been containing smuggled rice, and Tiñana asked a former on-the-job trainee to deposit questionable money totaling P179,000 to his personal account.

It was noted in the decision that the BOC has preventively suspended Remonde, Farin and Gamboa in 2018 and Tiñana in 2019.

All four denied the allegations against them.

Another official who was found guilty of administrative case of gross insubordination was customs operations officer Dolores Domingo but she only got a one year suspension penalty or payment of a fine equivalent to her one year salary.

Domingo had protested her reassignment to Cagayan De Oro saying it was brought about by a feud with BOC director Milo Maestrecampo.