Solon tags Customs official

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A party-list lawmaker on Monday urged Bureau of Customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero to pursue criminal and administrative charges against a ranking Customs official responsible for the removal of the X-ray mobile scanning unit at the Customs Clearance Area of  Mindanao International Container Terminal Services Inc. at the Phividec Industrial Estate complex in Misamis Oriental.

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles said that the removal of the X-ray unit could have allowed the smuggling of illegal drugs, weapons, and other contraband at the MICTSI through so-called “swinging operations.”

In a letter to Guerrero, Nograles said that Director Eduardo Chico of the Ports Operations Service, Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group had no authority to revoke Administrative Order 296 issued by former President Ramos in 1996 that established the Customs Clearance Area in Special Economic Freeport Zones. Nograles claims that Director Chico violated Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“How can a mere verbal order of a Director in Customs revoke and Administrative Order of the President of the Republic of the Philippines?” questioned Nograles, referring to the order of Director Chico to cease the operations of the Customs Clearance Area. 

“The “Swinging” modus will only work when the containers are not properly inspected. For more than three months, from September to December 2018, containers were rushed out of the port and into the streets of Mindanao and elsewhere because of Director Chico’s illegal verbal order,” Nograles, a deputy majority leader, said. 

“Swinging” is a modus being used by smugglers where containers are sneaked out of the port to be unloaded in nearby warehouses. The same containers are then brought back to the Port for dummy inspection and documentation.

On November 2018, Nograles asked Customs Commissioner Guerrero to verify reports of the removal of the X-ray unit in the Customs Clearance Area. In response, Guerrero submitted to Nograles an explanation letter signed by Port of Cagayan District Collector Atty. Floro Calixihan Jr. confirming that Director Chico issued a verbal order to remove the X-ray unit.

By mid-December 2018, District Collector Calixihan immediately transferred the X-ray back to the Customs Clearance Area after Nograles questioned the illegal order.​

from Manila Standard


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