MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Customs (BOC) and police authorities arrested on Thursday, August 14, a Customs employee for allegedly seeking, and accepting, a P1.5-million ($34,340*) bribe to facilitate the clearance of prohibited shipment.
The BOC said in a statement on Thursday that the employee – Ethel Bernas – managed to commit the alleged crime even after she had been dismissed from the service for grave misconduct, effective July 31.
Operatives from the BOC’s Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) and the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) arrested Bernas, a Customs Operations Officer III (COO 3) assigned at the BOC Auction and Cargo Disposal Division at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Collection District.
The arrest of Bernas was based on a complaint filed by Jane Louise Balse with the Customs Police, the BOC said.
Balse alleged that Bernas offered to facilitate the release of container vans with used clothing from Hong Kong and the United States in exchange for an initial payment of P1 million ($22,894).
Republic Act 4653 bans the commercial importation of used clothing or “ukay-ukay” and textiles “to protect the health of the Filipinos and to preserve the Filipino dignity.”
Bernas reportedly asked for an additional payment of P425,000 ($9,734) – supposedly for other BOC officials.
Balse said that after she had paid the entire amount to Bernas, her shipment was still not released. Bernas reportedly claimed that some documents had yet to be signed.
On August 8, Bernas allegedly demanded another P155,000 ($3,550) for the release of the shipment, which prompted Balse to file the complaint.
Bernas faces charges for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, direct bribery and estafa. She also faces administrative charges under the BOC Code of Conduct and related civil service laws.
The BOC said in a statement that the Ombudsman had already found Bernas guilty of grave misconduct as early as June.
In a 6-page decision dated June 25, 2014, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang approved the verdict and meted Bernas with the penalty of dismissal from the service.
The dismissal was effective July 31, 2014, but Bernas continued to go to her office at BOC-NAIA claiming that she filed an appeal before the Ombudsman.
Following her arrest, Bernas will be subjected to inquest and booking at the PNP-CIDG Headquarters in Camp Crame. – Rappler.com
$1 = P43.67