FORMER Customs commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña — PHILSTAR/EDD GUMBAN

THE NATIONAL Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has charged Bureau of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña with graft, gross neglect of duty, and grave misconduct, in connection with technical procedures regarding the release of shipments containing ceramic tiles last March.
The NBI stated that instead of issuing a “Special Stop” to hold the release of those 105 containers, Mr. Lapeña issued a Manual Alert Order (MAO) despite the BoC’s electronic-to-mobile (e2m) system being functional. The NBI said the MAO should only be issued when the e2m system is not accessible.
“Lapeña also deliberately violated the Memorandum that he himself approved when he issued the Memorandum where he interposes no objection to the release of the shipments to the consignee in the Port of Cebu (PoC), despite being the subject of continuing alert and the absence of any documents to support or be the basis of its release,” the NBI said. The bureau also claimed the former Customs chief caused undue injury to the government.
“The manifest indifference of Mr. Lapeña has led to the…release of the shipments, escaping the revenues that the Republic of the Philippines is entitled to,” the complaint read. It also noted “(t)he fact that he allowed the release of the shipments in the PoC, notwithstanding the Memorandum he issued a few days before he issued the Memorandum to the District Collector of Cebu, giving Abundancegain Indent Trading Corp. unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference over the other consignee.”
The case was filed due to a March 19, 2018 report submitted by Port of Manila District Collector Vener S. Baquiran and received by Antonio Meliton Pascual, former chief of the Formal Entry Division of the Port of Manila (PoM), which stated that the containers were released by Asian Terminal Inc. (ATI) “without the requisite examination of the entire shipment and without any Lifting of Alert Order duly approved (by) the Commissioner of Customs.”
ATI released the shipments “based on mere corresponding transmittal memoranda on various dates,” purportedly signed by Mr. Pascual or Marylyn Estur, without the memorandum of the commissioner lifting the alert order on the shipment. The NBI said the transmittal memoranda were “forged.”
President Rodrigo R. Duterte reassigned Mr. Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority on Oct. 25, amid controversies hounding the Customs bureau and involving the illegal drug trade. — VMMV