Two (2) employees from the country’s chief revenue-generating agencies are facing charges for non-disclosure of assets and deceptive declarations in sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth (SALNs) and undue accumulation of wealth in gross disproportion of income as a government employee.
On May 24, 2012, the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) of the Finance Department initiated criminal and administrative complaints with the Office of the Ombudsman against JOSELITO SANTOS LOPENA, Utility Worker I, Bureau of Customs (BOC) and MERCEDES JAVIER ESPINA, Revenue Officer II, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for violations of Section 7, Republic Act 3019, as amended; Section 8 (A), Republic Act 6713; Falsification of Official Documents and Perjury under Articles 171 (4) and 183, Revised Penal Code; Grave Misconduct, Gross Neglect of Duty, and Serious Dishonesty under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS).
RIPS’ confidential leads during official investigation on Lopena, whose current work station is at the Port of Manila (POM), FTI Complex, Taguig City, confirmed that upon his inception at the BOC, Lopena’s networth shot upward from five hundred ninety two thousand pesos (PhP 592,000.00) in 2001 to nine hundred ninety two thousand pesos (PhP 992,000.00) in 2002 without financial liabilities.
Based on RIPS’ Complaint, Lopena’s 2002 networth remarkably leapt further in 2003 in the amount of one million sixty two thousand pesos (PhP 1,062,000.00).
According to RIPS, Lopena’s SALN for the year 2002 showed that he acquired an eighty thousand peso (PhP 80,000.00) worth of jewelry, bought furniture worth one hundred fifty thousand pesos (PhP 150,000.00), and increased his cash reserves in the amount of eighty thousand pesos (PhP 80,000.00).
“During this twelve-month period, it is doubtful how respondent could have legitimately earned said increase in his networth when he was only receiving an annual gross salary of sixty thousand nine hundred eighty four pesos (PhP 60,984.00),” RIPS said in its complaint.
After one (1) year, as seen in Lopena’s 2003 SALN, while the costs of Lopena’ jewelry and furniture rose to respective amounts of ninety thousand pesos (PhP 90,000.00) and one hundred sixty thousand pesos (PhP 160,000.00), his personal funds jumped to one hundred thirty thousand pesos (PhP 130,000.00), with still no liabilities to account for.
However, in his 2004 SALN, Lopena disclosed two (2) liabilities, namely: agricultural supplies debt worth fifty thousand pesos (PhP 50,000.00) and a housing loan for two hundred ninety thousand pesos (PhP 290,000.00). Scrutinizing his SALN for the same year, though, Lopena did not report the residence as his real property for which the housing loan was incurred. Such act of non-disclosure of the same real asset was replicated in his 2005 SALN.
Meanwhile, regardless of 2004 expenditures, Lopena bought a 1990 model Mitsubishi car for eighty five thousand pesos (PhP 85,000.00).
Another vehicle, an L300 FB Van, was purchased in 2007 by Lopena which he claimed was pegged at one hundred eighty thousand pesos (PhP 180,000.00), as reflected in his SALN for the same year.
RIPS observed in its Complaint, “From his declarations in his SALNs alone, respondent had evidently increased his personal wealth and correlatively, his networth in a short span of time which defy rational explanation and logic when viewed against his modest salary. It must be emphasized that respondent’s spouse is a mere housewife with no income and they do not have any business interest from which they could have derived additional funds. Thus, without valid justification, it can only be surmised that the so-called wealth accumulated by respondent was derived from sources outside his lawful income, hence, constituting unexplained wealth.”
Continuing his substantial purchases, Lopena intermittently acquired some five (5) personal vehicles in the years 1979, 1990, 2000, 2004, and 2010, as follows: a Colt Lancer; a Mitsubishi Galant sedan; and three (3) units of Kawasaki, Honda, and Yamaha motorcycles.
Per verification with the Land Transportation Office (LTO), pertinent motor vehicle inquiry records revealed that the above-identified vehicles were last registered under Lopena’s name correspondingly in the years 2003, 2010, and 2011, but which were conspicuously missing from his SALNs for the same years.
Just last year, or in 2011, another vehicle, a Frontier Navara pick-up, was also verified to be registered under Lopena’s name as deduced from the motor vehicle inquiry record issued by LTO which he acquired in the same year.
Referring to his Service Record issued by the BOC, Lopena had been receiving since June 1, 2011 to date, an annual gross salary of one hundred three thousand three hundred twenty pesos (PhP 103,320.00), or the sum of eight thousand six hundred ten pesos only (PhP 8,610.00) per month.
As for Espina, a BIR employee assigned at Revenue District 39 in Quezon City, her 1999 to 2008 SALNs bared that while she declared her house and lot San Juan, Batangas, assumedly acquired in 1995, the Office of the Municipal Assessor of the same province certified that there were, in reality, two (2) lands registered under her name.
Identified in Tax Declaration No. 21-0004-00047, an agricultural lot precisely located in Barualte, San Juan, Batangas was not included in Espina’s SALNs as one of her real assets.
On the reverse, a profound survey of Espina’s SALNs yielded a seemingly low key ruse on her part regarding her loans.
For the most part, Espina reported a three hundred thousand peso – (PhP 300,000.00) liability in her 1999, 2003 to 2007 SALNs while there was no loan entry in her 2000 to 2002 SALNs.
Then, appearing in her 2008 SALN, Espina accounted for a two hundred fifty thousand peso (PhP 250,000.00) loan allegedly owing from various creditors.
But apparently, per Summary of Loan Accounts with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) as of 22 August 2011, Espina secured a salary loan on October 18, 2004 for only fifty two thousand six hundred seventy five pesos (PhP 52,675.00).
Based on the same certification as of even date, Espina’s GSIS loan shrunk to only four thousand four hundred sixty-seven pesos and seventy-three centavos (PhP 4,467.73), to which RIPS said in its Complaint, “Interestingly, the loan which respondent consistently declared in her SALNs for the corresponding years is much greater than her actual salary loan with the GSIS. Evidently, respondent failed to be forthright in her SALNs by declaring a single loan under “Liabilities”. This presupposes a deliberate intent on the part of respondent to manipulate the entries in her SALNs to conceal her true networth.”
The Office of the Ombudsman, pending preliminary investigation of the administrative and criminal cases against Lopena and Espina, may place them under preventive suspension without pay pursuant to Section 24, Republic Act 6770, or the Ombudsman Act of 1989.
Should both of them be found criminally and administratively liable, these erring employees shall be dismissed from the service while their properties will be forfeited by the government in accordance with Section 2, Republic Act 1379, also known as Forfeiture of Ill-Gotten Wealth.
Pursuant to Executive Order No. 259, series of 2003, the DOF’s anti-corruption arm is empowered “to detect, investigate, and prevent graft and corrupt activities among all officials and employees of the Department of Finance, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Bureau of Customs and all other agencies attached to the Department.”
At present, RIPS has filed one hundred eleven (111) graft and lifestyle cases against one hundred fifty-two (152) personalities, and secured sixty-one (61) suspensions from office and twenty-one (21) dismissals from service against several officials and employees of the Department and its revenue-generating agencies under its jurisdiction.