Former mayor wife emerges unscathed from case
A Bureau of Customs Collector has been ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman following failure to declare and explain wealth in a case his wife has emerged unscathed from. Maximo Dela Peña Reyes, Collector IV at the Bureau of Customs, was charged together with his estranged wife when both were found to have not filed their SALNs for the years 2001 and 2009 and were suspected for not having truthfully disclosed their true net worth for the period 2000 and 2010.
Summarizing analysis of financial statements, The Ombudsman found that the spouses, separated since 2002, have a total unexplained wealth in the amount of P89.19 million, excluding the documented liabilities worth P4.27 million and P8.40 million earned in salaries as public officials from their total net worth of P101.86 million. Spouses also admit to owning interests in 17 businesses, 25 properties, and 15 vehicles.
Reyes even unsuccessfully painted his wife, Cristeta Cuevas-Reyes, former Mayor of Malvar, Batangas, as “arrogant, domineering, and possessive” in a failed bid to explain inconsistencies in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) and massive wealth disproportionate to his income as a public official. The Ombudsman found Reyes’ “battered or henpecked husband defense” to hold very little water and found him guilty of committing gross neglect of duty. Previously, he was placed under preventive suspension in 28 May 2013.
While former Mayor Cuevas-Reyes was able to reasonably explain her wealth in citing income generated from various legitimate businesses involving poultry and drug store chains, Collector Reyes was not able to bring forth a solid defense of his unexplained wealth and improper SALN filings. Citing “generous parents” and his troubled marital relationship as the reason for his misdeclarations, Collector Reyes failed to declare and explain 6 properties and cash on hand worth up to P21.05 million.
The Ombudsman, in its decision approved last 5 November 2014, stated that a “deteroriating marital relationship could not in any way have prevented proper and accurate documentation of properties in [Reyes’] SALN.” In contrast, his wife Cuevas-Reyes was afforded the presumption of good faith after the former mayor cited separation for the failure to secure documents needed for full and accurate declaration. Whereas former Mayor Cuevas-Reyes had proof of legitimate income supporting her wealth, Collector Reyes had none of value to show for in court.
Collector Reyes, aside from failing to file SALNs in 2001 and 2009, did not sign wife’s SALN in the years 2000, 2002-5, 2007, and also did not verify nor accurately declare properties in his filings for 2006, 2008, and 2010.
Found guilty of gross neglect of duty due to repeated acts of negligence, Collector Maximo Dela Peña Reyes was also meted the penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification for re-employment in the government service.
The Department of Finance (DOF) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) welcome this resolution as an unmistakable step forward in the fight against corruption. The DOF and its attached agencies will continue to hold employees in its ranks to the highest standards of integrity and accountability.
Another top rice importer faces smuggling-related charges filed by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for bringing in rice without government permits. Four separate complaints were filed by BOC Acting District Collectors Mario Mendoza of the Port of Manila; Elmir Dela Cruz of the Manila International Container Port; Roberto Almadin of the Port of Cebu; and Ricardo Butalid, Jr. of the Port of Davao against key officials of Starcraft International Trading Corporation and the firm’s Licensed Customs Brokers before the Department of Justice.
Starcraft President Jeffrey Daradal; Board Directors Eugene Pioquinto, Aveleo Godoy, Anna Orqueta, Brendel Daradal and Jessie Bantula; as well as company representative Hanlie Solema all face multiple counts of violating Section 3601 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP) and Section 29 of Presidential Decree (PD) Number 4, as amended by PD No 1485. The Bureau also slapped charges against 12 customs brokers for facilitating the unlawful importations of rice made by Starcraft. They are: Denise Kathryn Rosaroso, John Kevin Cisneros, Emilio Chio, Eduardo Borje III, Rosemarie Arciaga, Gerald Villarosa, Jennifer Ann Reyes, Elbert Lusterio, Dianne Re Dizon-Tapia, Laila Silvestre, Francis Rudolph Forneste and Kenneth Quial. Each count of violating Section 3601 of the TCCP has a maximum sentence of ten years in jail and P50,000 fine; while each count of violating PD No 4 is levied a penalty of as much as four years imprisonment and a fine of P8,000.00.
The charges stem from rice importations of Starcraft totaling over 45,000 Metric Tons (more than 45-Million kilograms) worth as estimated P1.8-Billion that arrived in Manila, Cebu and Davao from Vietnam, Thailand, China and Singapore from June to November 2013. However, based on records of the National Food Authority (NFA), Starcraft was only allowed to import 1,176 metric tons through Manila. This means that the company exceeded its Minimum Access Volume from NFA by over 3,700%.
The NFA regulates rice imports through Minimum Access Volumes, or quotas that limit the quantity imported to prevent excessive supply and the viability of the local rice industry. Most of Starcraft’s rice imports were not released by the Bureau by virtue of Alert Orders issued for lack of the required permits from the NFA. However, Starcraft filed court cases, arguing that private importers can import rice without securing a permit, citing the expiration of quantitative restrictions on rice imports to the Philippines under the World Trade Organization in 2012. However, Philippine laws state that only the NFA can import rice and companies who wish to do the same must secure an import permit from the agency.
“Our laws were not changed. Import permits for rice were still required. Starcraft cannot unilaterally interpret the laws by itself. Regulation of rice is critical because millions of farmers’ livelihoods depend on rice farming,” said Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla.
Starcraft is the 5th top rice importer slapped with smuggling cases by the Bureau. Data from the BOC showed that Starcraft, along with Intercontinental Grains International Trading, Bold Bidder Marketing, Silent Royalty Marketing and Medaglia De Oro Trading, captured a combined 75% of the 200,000 Metric Tons of rice that entered various ports in the country without the required import from NFA in 2013.
Penalized for falsification and perjury by misdeclaring SALN.
Marissa Rae Rollo Galang, Intelligence Officer II and Acting Chief of the Bureau of Customs-Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, was dismissed from her duties by the Office of the Ombudsman last 28 October 2014 after being found to have violated Republic Act. No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Republic Act No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Indicted on seven (7) counts of perjury and found guilty of serious dishonesty and grave misconduct, Galang was proven to have falsified her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) to conceal ill-gotten wealth. Her assets, including real estate and personal properties, travels and expenses, were all disproportionate to the legitimate income she was earning in the government service.
Claiming to have legitimate businesses to have other sources of income supplementing her government salary, Galang’s incongruent defense did not add up to the figures representing the expenses she incurred. In one of the more notable arguments for her defense, Galang claimed to having earned income as a franchisee of Mitsukoshi products. As Mitsukoshi is a major Japanese international department store and would have issued corresponding documents to franchisees, Galang’s failure to provide any of the kind to the Office of the Ombudsman makes her alibi completely fictitious.
Declaring fictitious businesses in her SALN constitutes perjury and willful intent to conceal the truth of her wealth and high-expense lifestyle. Further, she was found to be guilty of simple dishonesty, as she was discovered to have falsified her Daily Time Record (DTR) to reflect time in the office when she was clearly on vacation in the Republic of Palau, as proved by a flight manifest presented to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Galang was meted the penalty of dismissal from the service, with accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service. A petition for forfeiture will also be filed to recover Galang’s ill-gotten wealth of around P2,374,520.07.
This dismissal represents yet another mark of success the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) program of the Department of Finance has enjoyed since 2010. The RIPS program investigates and recommends for prosecution and eventual dismissal corrupt and or erring public officials.
As of 30 September 2014, RIPS has filed cases against two hundred and twenty six (226) respondents since its inception in 2003. Of these, eighty (80) personalities were charged before the Office of the Ombudsman during the current administration, while twenty eight (28) personalities were charged before the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and five (5) personalities were referred to the concerned agency for filing of formal charge.
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