Ombudsman clears Duty Free officials in plunder, graft cases

MANILA, Philippines – Citing insufficient evidence, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed plunder, graft, and administrative cases against Duty Free Philippines Corporation (Duty Free) incumbent Chief Operating Officer (COO) Vicente Pelagio Angala and 3 other Duty Free officials. 

The cases were based on complaints filed by 10 Duty Free employees, who alleged the officials were in violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. They accused the officials of having financial and pecuniary interest with DFP Services, Inc. (DFPSI), a former manpower service contractor of Duty Free; amassing wealth through the contract with DFPSI; and ignoring the complainants’ request for retroactive appointments, in effect depriving them of their salaries and benefits.  

The 3 other officials charged are former COO Lorenzo Formoso, former Human Resources Management Division Manager Roberto Policarpio, and former Physical Distribution Department Manager Manolito Canlas.

The resolution, approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on November 4, 2019 but released only recently, states the charges had “no probable cause,” pointing out that DFSPI’s business had no relation or connection with Angala’s official capacity as then manager for Duty Free’s International Department. (READ: Anti-corruption body asks Duterte to probe Duty Free 'smuggling' scheme)

“It is not enough to be a public official to be subject to this crime; it is necessary that by reason of his office, he has to intervene in said contracts or transactions; and hence, the official who intervenes in contracts or transactions which have no relation to his office cannot commit this crime,” the ruling reads. 

The Ombudsman also ruled that Commission on Audit reports of alleged overpayment made by Duty Free to DFPSI did not necessarily mean that the respondents pocketed said alleged overpayments.

Complainants also failed to indicate whether it was Angala or Formoso directly responsible for the issuance of their retroactive appointment.

Angala, in response to the ruling, said, “For quite some time, I have kept mum against all these allegations. It is very unfortunate that some people will spin the facts to destroy one’s reputation to their advantage…. I now look forward to working in unity with my DFPC family to earnestly fulfill our mandate of supporting the tourism industry.”

Both Angala and Martires are appointees of President Rodrigo Duterte.