Sandiganbayan convicts 10 former DOF personnel of graft

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Sandiganbayan convicts 10 former DOF personnel of graft

LADY JUSTICE. Under the Philippine Constitution, all persons in the country are entitled to due process and to representation by a lawyer.


2 former officers of the now-defunct OSS Center of the Department of Finance are convicted on 24 counts of graft by Sandiganbayan

MANILA, Philippines – Two former officials and eight other personnel of the Department of Finance (DOF) were convicted by the Sandiganbayan of multiple counts of violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) in cases filed in 1999.

The Sandiganbayan Third Division found guilty of 24 counts each Uldarico Andutan Jr. and Asuncion Magdaet both formerly of the now-defunct One-Stop Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center (OSS Center) of the DOF.

Andutan was the DOF OSS Center deputy executive director at that time, while Magdaet was the textile division manager.

Also convicted were:

  • acting deputy executive director Raul de Vera (two counts);
  • tax specialists Annabelle Diño (six counts),
  • Merose Tordesillas (four counts),
  • Gregoria Cuento (two counts),
  • and Mark Binsol (one count);
  • evaluators Gemma Abara (four counts),
  • Cherry Gomez (one count), and
  • Purita Napeñas (one count).

They were each sentenced to six to eight years imprisonment per count, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang penned the 155-page decision on the case which took 24 years to conclude. The anti-graft court rendered its decision on August 11. Concurring were the Third Division’s associate justices Bernelito R. Fernandez and Ronald B. Moreno.

The Office of the Ombudsman actually filed 40 charges of graft against the respondents in 1999.

But the court acquitted the defendants on 16 separate counts of the same criminal offense due to weak evidence.

In the Sandigan’s estimate the 24 cases of fraudulently issued TCCs cost the government P61.508 million.

According to the website of the DOF: “The OSS Center was originally created on February 7, 1992 through AO No. 266, s. 1992 to simplify and streamline the processing of tax credits and duty drawbacks.

“Tax credits are credits against taxes and/or duties equal to those actually paid or would have been paid to evidence which tax credit certificate (TCC) shall be issued by the Secretary of Finance or their duly authorized representative.

“Meanwhile, duty drawback refers to the refund or credit of duties, and may include internal revenue taxes actually paid for importation, in whole or in part.”

The Sandiganbayan said that the defendants failed to exercise even ordinary diligence in evaluating, processing and approving particular TCCs.

Most glaring of these “overlooked” transactions, said the court, was the transactions of the applicant firm Scope Industries Inc. Records showed that two officials of the said company were the ones themselves who marked as “certified true copies” all supporting documents even if these papers came from various private entities.

Those documents tampered by the said company included transportation companies, forwarding agents, and shippers or consignees from Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

During court proceedings, representatives from K Line and Citadel Shipping said the documents were bogus. They presented proof showing that the bills of lading submitted by Scope did not come from them.

“Predictably, as shown by the evidence presented by the prosecution…the bills of lading which Scope attached to nineteen (19) of its applications …turned out to be spurious,” said the court.

The court said it was the duty of the accused to exercise “reasonable caution” in order to avoid undue damage and prejudice to the government.

“None of the accused evaluators and reviewers flagged the dubious circumstances surrounding the “certified” documents submitted by Scope Industries, Inc. to support its applications which resulted in the issuance of forty (40) TCCs,” the court said.

The Sandiganbayan decision added: “Evidently, gross inexcusable negligence attended the issuance of 40 TCCs worth P103,042,663.00 when the accused evaluators and reviewers alike simply accepted the documents submitted before them as authentic and without flaws, without further verifying the same to determine their worth.”

OSS Center abolished

Meanwhile, in a press statement last February, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno issued Administrative Order No. 4, abolishing the OSS Center and transferring its assets, liabilities, and obligations to the DOF.

“The operations of the OSS Center, which had been plagued by corruption allegations over the years and had been defunct since 2016, is now rightfully under the Bureau of Internal Revenue [BIR] and the Bureau of Customs [BOC]. This will streamline revenue operations and reduce administrative expenses,” Secretary Diokno said in the statement.

“It is also important to note that the OSS Center has not processed and issued any tax credit certificates since 2016. It is not practical for the government to provide for its budget every year since it does not perform its functions anymore,” Secretary Diokno added. –

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