DOJ drops charges vs customs employees

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014


SOME Bureau of Customs (BOC)-Northern Mindanao employees and private individuals involved in anti-smuggling cases that figured car dealer Lynard Allan Bigcas, the main suspect, had been dismissed by the Justice department.

Bigcas, however, would still be facing the case in court, a BOC-Northern Mindanao official said Monday.

“He (Bigcas) is still not off the hook,” said lawyer Roswald Joseph Pague, BOC-Northern Mindanao administrative officer.

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Pague said the other respondents might have been scot-free but Bigcas is still facing the same charges. The complainant in Bigcas’s case is the commissioner of Customs.

Pague added the case is now being heard at the Court of Tax Appeals in Manila.

He said Bigcas’s co-defendants in the complaint were dismissed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) based on technicality.

The complaint was on violation of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP), as amended, Executive Order 156, falsification and perjury.

In a resolution promulgated by the DOJ on December 3, 2013 but was released to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro on Monday, May 26, it was decided that the 11 BOC-Northern Mindanao personnel and three customs brokers were excluded from the complaint because there was no written approval from the Customs commissioner.

At the time the complaint against Bigcas and the others were filed, the Customs commissioner was Ruffy Biazon.

“The said panel of prosecutors dismissed the case on the ground that the complaint filed at the Office of the City Prosecutor of Cagayan de Oro didn't have a written approval of the Commissioner of Customs, and that a single transaction or incident cannot be the subject of two or more complaints,” reads a part of the DOJ resolution.

Based on the resolution, the complainants were former BOC-Northern Mindanao deputy collector Marvin Mison and the National Bureau of Investigation-Northern Mindanao.

DOJ identified the respondents as Bigcas, customs brokers Denny Marie France Santiago, Rene Carlo Santiago and Dario Amolata; Lowell Medija Sr., Chona Sarte, Madki Balut, Datu Ogarinan Palala, Halil Garangan, Ombao Andig, Jesus de Jesus, Nasser Pandi, Henrito Marsamolo and Ronald Causon, all of them were active BOC-Northern Mindanao employees at the time of the filing.

At present, Pague said Medija is no longer connected with the BOC, while Sarte is the port collector at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

Some of the personnel mentioned have gone back to their mother units following the order from the Customs commissioner, Pague added.

According to the DOJ, the complaint, which was initially filed at the Office of the City Prosecutor in Cagayan de Oro, involves 29 assorted second-hand motor vehicles and motorcycles that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Houston, Texas, USA, reported were stolen and which were imported allegedly into the country by said respondents.

Among the vehicles seized from Bigcas’ rented warehouse in Barangay Kauswagan by a joint team of NBI and FBI agents were Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Charger, Toyota Sequioa, Ranger RZR Utility Terrain, Polaris Magnum 325 ATV, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, a Martin Brother’s Chopper, and assorted Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki motorcycles.

The DOJ said the vehicles were worth $473,667.00 or P18.898 million at the time of the confiscation.

Pague said the vehicles are stored at the MCT for safekeeping and can only be released after the case will be decided by the court.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 27, 2014.

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