Raps vs 2 Customs officers recommended

THE Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao recommended the filing of charges against two officers of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS)-Davao accused of demanding cash for the release of a car parts dealer's shipments in 2012.

Facing charges for violation of the Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act are Mark Cabigting Paras, former officer-in-charge of CIIS-Davao and his assistant officer-officer-in-charge Bienvenido Plata II.

Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer 1 Vivian Agdeppa-Jumilla found probable cause to charge the officials based on the complaint of Park Kwon, president of the PK Industries and Trading Services Inc. and the testimony of the company's customs processor Joy Dela Peña.

Kwon, in her affidavit, said he tasked Dela Peña to process the release of their shipments composed of 15 container vans of completely knocked-down car parts sometime in March 2012.

Dela Peña was then approached by Plata, who requested the importer to pay P3,000 for each container van before they will be released.

She did not heed the request of Plata and told the latter that she needed to consult the matter to Kwon.

Kwon then made the follow-up on the shipments herself and she was stalled due to the same request, but this time, it was Paras who allegedly asked for the money.

The complainant also claimed that she was harassed after Paras allegedly accused her company of being involved in car smuggling.

Thus, she filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao on April 10, 2012.

The respondents filed a counter-affidavit denying the allegations.

Paras, meanwhile, contended that Kwon has no authority to file a case as he is not the president of the company, yet Jumilla turned down his contention as Kwon proved that he was elected as president in 2007.

The accused officials also insisted that they had no hand in the release of the shipments, that is why they have nothing to bargain with the importer in the first place.

But Jumilla also denied their claims, saying while they have no control over the releasing of shipments, they can still intervene in the releasing, as they are tasked to check the contents of shipments for any violation of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP).

As to the respondents' denial of the allegations, Jumilla's resolution read, "Respondents may have denied that they asked and requested for a payment of P3,000 per container van consigned to PK Industries, but Dela Peña, in her affidavit, positively identified respondent Plata as the person who told her that respondent Paras is asking to be paid with the said amount per container van. It is well-settled that denial, if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is a self-serving assertion that deserves no weight in law. Between the categorical and positive assertions of the prosecution witnesses and the negative averments of the accused which are uncorroborated by reliable and independent evidence, the former indisputably deserve more credence and are entitled to greater evidentiary weight."

The case was endorsed to the Regional Trial Court Office of the Clerk of Court and is set to be raffled off to a court branch on Thursday. (RSA)

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