Appointment of Guerrero aides to key Customs posts questioned

MANILA, Philippines – Amid corruption allegations against some of its personnel made by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) leadership faced a new challenge: alleged invalid assignments to key posts.

The group Transparency in Public Service (TIPS) on Thursday, August 1, filed graft and usurpation complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman against BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, his chief-of-staff Teodoro Jumamil, BOC intelligence chief Raniel Ramiro, and BOC risk management chief George Patrick Avila.

The Office of the Ombudsman has already initiated an in-depth fact-finding probe into alleged Customs corruption, with Ombudsman Samuel Martires raising the possibility of issuing preventive suspension orders against accountable officials.

Duterte had earlier threatened 64 BOC employees with administrative cases unless they resigned.

Invalid appointments?

According to the complaint filed by TIPS member Joana Marie Gonzales, Guerrero, through a memorandum, assigned Jumamil as deputy commissioner of the Revenue Collection Monitoring Group (RCMG).

Citing civil service rules, the complaint said that Jumamil cannot be assigned to a head of unit position because he is non-career personnel.

"Under Section 132 of Rule XIII of the 2017 Omnibus Rules on Appointments and Other Human Resource Actions, no consultant, contractual or non-career or detailed employee shall be designated to a position exercising control or supervision over regular and career employees," Gonzales said in her complaint.

In the case of Avila, the group said he "began performing the functions of chief of the Risk Management Office (RMO) without any appointment and through the consent and acquiescence of Guerrero and Ramiro."

The RMO is under Ramiro as intelligence chief.

Gonzales accused the officials of committing usurpation of official functions, and violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits, among others, the giving of unwarranted benefits to any party through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and gross inexcusable negligence.

"Clearly, the designation of respondents, outsiders in the eyes of the BOC, to career positions, was done through manifest partiality and evident bad faith," she said.

Guerrero replaced Isidro Lapeña whom Duterte transferred to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), following the P11- billion shabu-smuggling scandal.

The 2018 audit of the BOC revealed the agency has not learned its lesson from past instances of large-scale shabu smuggling at the ports because the agency continued to illegally release cargo, "causing undue disadvantage to the government in the form of additional revenues to be collected.”

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.