Customs collector in Cebu suspended

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Sunday, April 27, 2014


THE Court of Appeals (CA) Sixth Division has affirmed the anti-graft office’s order suspending for six months without pay a customs collector in Cebu over his unexplained wealth allegedly amounting to P89 million, with undeclared or misdeclared assets worth P44.6 million.

It dismissed for lack of merit the petition for certiorari filed by Maximo dela Peña Reyes, collector IV of Port of Cebu.

Associate Justices Hakim Abdulwahid, Romeo Barza and Ramon Cruz said Reyes’s acquisition of properties and money are not proportionate to his salary and the other lawful income constitutes a prima facie evidence of unexplained wealth.

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Lifestyle check

Aside from noting a P57.3-million increase in his net worth for the period of 2000 to 2010, the anti-graft office said he did not file his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) from 2001 to 2009.

The ombudsman suspended Reyes last May for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

It has been conducting a lifestyle check on Reyes and his family since 2011.

Reyes, a lawyer, joined the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Manila as a supervising customs operations officer in 1992. He was promoted customs collector on November 14, 2004.

The ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO) discovered the assets of Reyes were grossly disproportionate to his family’s declared income and real properties, which were not in his SALN.

The FOI conducted a lifestyle check on Reyes after receiving a report on his frequent plane travels.

It later filed criminal and administrative charges against Reyes. It also requested the agency to conduct a preliminary investigation, administrative adjudication and forfeiture proceedings against him.

On April 3, 2013, the ombudsman filed a complaint against Reyes, his wife Cristeta Cuevas-Reyes, mayor of Malvar, Batangas, and their five children.

No SALNs

The couple was charged with violating Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The ombudsman accused them of failing to submit their SALNs from 2001 to 2009.

Reyes was also administratively charged with serious dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The ombudsman initiated forfeiture proceedings on the allegedly unlawfully acquired properties of Reyes and his family.

In his certiorari petition, Reyes said the ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion in placing him under preventive suspension.

He said his constitutional rights were violated when he was not given prior notice and opportunity to be heard.

Reyes said the ombudsman erred when it ruled that the evidence of guilt against him was strong. (GMD)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 27, 2014.

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