Customs Official Dismissed from the Service for Dishonesty
The Office of the Ombudsman dismissed Rafael Mendoza Merencilla, Chief Customs Operations Officer for Dishonesty for his untruthful, inconsistent and misleading declarations of his assets, liabilities and net worth as shown in his submitted Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the years 1997 to 2009 and for his apparent accumulation of properties grossly disproportionate to his income. The case was filed in May 2011 by the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS), the anti-corruption arm of the Department of Finance, after it conducted a lifestyle check on Merencilla.
In its 23-page decision, the Ombudsman said that Merencilla’s “failure to file true, detailed and sworn statements of assets, liabilities and net worth and resorting to a narration of all properties in one description defeats the very purpose of the law which is safeguarding the integrity of every public official through transparency and accountability in the pursuit of good governance”.
Non declaration of assets
The Ombudsman found that Merencilla did not disclose some of his assets. In particular, he did not declare in any of his SALNs his ownership of a 9,190 sq. m. lot also in Lipa City. In another property, he also did not declare the existence of residential buildings on his 18,535 sq.m. agricultural/residential lots also in Sto Nino, Lipa City which he acquired in July 2001.
Lumping of assets
“Respondent’s motor vehicles were declared together with his other personal properties in his SALNs making it difficult to ascertain its composition. Worth noting is the declaration of the respondent that his Honda Accord was acquired in 1998 and was actually a part of his cash on hand during the same year. However, our scrutiny of his cash for the year is only Php70,000.00 vis-à-vis his acquisition cost for this car which amounted to Php510,000.00”, according to the Ombudsman decision.
The Ombudsman found that Merencilla made untruthful declarations in his SALNs when he declared that he acquired two townhouses through a loan from GSIS. However, RIPS investigators found out that he did not receive nor did he apply for any loan from the GSIS. “We also cannot accept his (Merencilla’s) reason that declarations for GSIS loan were made based merely on an honest belief that they obtained a loan from the GSIS since GSIS Loan continuously appeared on his SALNs from 1997 up to 2009. To our mind, the scheme was intentionally resorted to by the respondent (Merencilla) to conceal the increase in property holdings by making it appear that he and his wife obtained loans from the GSIS. Furthermore, it is rather absurd to claim that a housing loan was obtained from the GSIS when neither respondent nor his wife accomplished any loan application therefore. While good faith is considered as a valid defense, the fact that respondent repeatedly and continuously declared in is SALNs from 1997 to 2009, for a period of 13 years, that he and his wife availed of real property loan from the GSIS negated such a defense”, the Ombudsman said.
Properties grossly disproportionate to his income
“From the pieces of evidence at hand, it has become evident that there has been an astonishing increase in Merencilla’s total assets from Php4,480,000.00 in 1997 to Php29,301,380.64 in 2009”, the decision states. The Ombudsman did not accept Merencilla’s justification that the increase of his properties came from the income from his business connections. It said that “as regard his business connections, no mention was made on his income received therefrom, neither did he present any financial statement, statement of operations, and income tax return to support his claims that he has legally obtained other incomes from his businesses and investments”.
The dismissal order, which takes effect immediately, includes the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service.