The Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) of the Department of Finance (DOF) is targeting lifestyle checks on at least 70 more employees in the main office and its attached agencies such as the Bureaus of Customs (BOC) and of Internal Revenue (BIR) before yearend, in line with the Duterte administration’s goal of weeding out corruption in government.
According to DOF Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, who oversees the RIPS, the investigation covers officials and employees who have acquired real estate and personal properties with amounts not commensurate to their annual salaries.
“For instance, there is one that we are investigating—in 1996 his annual salary was P80,000, he was able to buy a lot worth P40,000. Then in 1997, he (reported that his) annual salary was P126,000, he was able to buy a lot for P150,000. His annual salary is not even enough to pay for that lot,” Agabin said.
RIPS executive director Ray Gilberto Espinosa said his office adds at least 10 more personnel covered by lifestyle checks every month.
“So we started actively initiating investigations last January, so we are targeting around 70 plus by the end of the year,” Espinosa said.
The RIPS, which is the anti-corruption arm of the DOF, forwards cases for further investigation and resolution to either the Office of the Ombudsman or the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
From January to September 2017, decisions were promulgated by the Ombudsman and CSC finding several employees and officials of the BOC and BIR guilty of Grave Misconduct and Serious Dishonesty and finding anomalies regarding the accomplishment and filing of their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) reports, the RIPS said in a recent statement.
In the administrative cases filed by RIPS, the penalty of dismissal from the service was imposed on two (2) BIR employees and three (3) BOC employees which carried penalties of forfeiture of benefits, perpetual disqualification to hold public office and a bar to taking the Civil Service Examinations.
Judith G. Pacana, Chief Revenue Officer IV of BIR Iligan City was guilty of Serious Dishonesty and Grave Misconduct by the Ombudsman in its Decision dated 06 June 2017, holding that “[Pacana’s] failure to disclose significant number of her assets and liability, in several SALNs, which is required under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6713, shows a clear intent to violate the law, and is a flagrant disregard of established rule which constitute Grave Misconduct. More so, such act being repeatedly done, the same also amounts to Serious Dishonesty.”
In the case involving Ester Grafil Sese, an Administrative Aide at the BOC who was only earning P 78,264.00 gross salary in the year 2012, the Ombudsman found that she failed to declare various motor vehicles in her 2000 to 2010 SALNs; falsely declared the acquisition cost of her assets; failed to declare various firearms in her 2012 to 2013 SALNs; and failed to declare a townhouse in her 2002 SALN.
The Ombudsman in its Decision dated Oct. 26, 2016 ordered Sese’s dismissal from the service for Serious Dishonesty and Grave Misconduct.
In another case, Visitacion B. Difuntorum, Customs Operations Officer V of the BOC, was found guilty of Dishonesty for failing to declare in her SALNs various lands located in Quezon City and Catarman, Samar from 1995 to 2006.
Considering Difuntorum’s retirement from the service last Jan. 30, 2012, she was directed instead to pay a fine equivalent to one (1) year of her latest salary, payable to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Also, a BOC Special Agent, Ramir Saunders Gomez was ordered dismissed from the service by the Ombudsman for Serious Dishonesty and Grave Misconduct for failing to declare six (6) real properties discovered by RIPS located in Old Cabalan, Olongapo City in his SALN although all the Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs) for the same are registered in his name.
In the CSC, the RIPS won the case against Ma. Herminia A. Pabito, Revenue Officer IV of the BIR, who was found to have failed to declare in her 2009 to 2011 SALNs a property registered in Pabito’s name and her sister; and failed to secure travel authorities for her travels in Bangkok, Thailand, Shanghai, China and Hongkong. She was ordered dismissed by the CSC on May 2, 2017 for Serious Dishonesty and five (5) counts of violation of Office Rules and Regulations.
In addition to the Orders dismissing the five (5) government employees, the RIPS cases also resulted in Orders of Suspension that ranged from one month to one year imposed on nine (9) BOC employees, two (2) BIR employees, and one (1) City Treasurer for non-declaration of realties in SALNs for one (1) to six (6) years; failure to submit a SALN for one (1) to two (2) years; non-declaration of business interests in 2005 to 2012 SALNs; failure to secure travel authorities abroad; belated filing of SALN; error in judgment and misinterpretation in accomplishing the SALN; and a finding of absence of bad faith in mis-declaring the acquisition cost or details of certain assets in the SALN.
For failure to secure the necessary authority to travel abroad to Singapore, a Supervising Tax Specialist of the BOC was found guilty of Simple Dishonesty aggravated by committing it twice: from January 1993 to February 1993 and September 1995 to October 1995 and was ordered to be suspended for three (3) months without pay. A City Treasurer likewise suffered the same fate.
Some of the above government employees are going to be charged with criminal cases.
The Ombudsman found that eight (8) BOC employees and one (1) BIR employee committed Perjury and Falsification by Public Officer under the Revised Penal Code; and for their SALN violations, Section 7 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 8, in relation to Section 11, of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees which may be punished by imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years, or a fine not exceeding five thousand pesos (P5,000), or both, and, in the discretion of the court of competent jurisdiction, disqualification to hold public office.