Sandiganbayan junks appeal of ex-Cebu customs exec, trader convicted of graft

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Sandiganbayan junks appeal of ex-Cebu customs exec, trader convicted of graft

ANTI-GRAFT COURT. The Sandiganbayan in Quezon City, June 30, 2018.

Darren Langit/Rappler

The graft conviction stems from the Bureau of Customs Port of Cebu's seizure of illegally shipped sugar in 1999 that was later auctioned

MANILA, Philippines – A former customs official in Cebu province and his co-accused’s Hail Mary to the Sandiganbayan did not work, after the anti-graft court denied their plea to reverse a trial court’s graft conviction in 2017, in relation to the seizure of illegally shipped sugar in 1999 that was later auctioned.

The court, in a 13-page ruling issued on Monday, April 1, said the grounds and reasons raised in the motions for reconsideration filed by Benjamin Bongon, former auction and cargo disposal chief at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Port of Cebu, and businessman Roger Ang, were “unpersuasive.”

The Sandiganbayan retained the six-year prison sentence and P10.8-million fine slapped against them, as well as the punishment of disqualification from government office for Bongon.

Background of the case

Over two decades ago, the BOC in Cebu confiscated 28,000 bags of undeclared sugar from a docked vessel.

The agency then auctioned the perishable cargo, which was won by Ang’s company.

As winning bidder, the firm was required to submit a P21-million deposit. After submitting the deposit, Ang later requested that P10.86 million be refunded to him, claiming his company only got 13,754 bags.

Investigators, however, learned the actual number of bags that Ang’s company offloaded was 26,908, resulting in a criminal investigation and indictment.

Conviction, appeals

The Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) convicted the two in December 2017, then junked the separate appeals they filed in August 2018.

The two then knocked on the Court of Appeals’ (CA) doors to challenge the RTC ruling, which was a crucial mistake since the Sandiganbayan has exclusive jurisdiction over cases that involve violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

In June 2022, the appellate court junked their motions for reconsideration for lack of jurisdiction, and transmitted the case to the Sandiganbayan.

In its ruling, the Sandiganbayan said the transfer was a mistake, because the Rules of Court states that “an appeal erroneously taken to the Court of Appeals shall not be transferred to the appropriate court but shall be dismissed outright.”

The Sandiganbayan added that Bongon, a lawyer, should have known better than to file his appeal with the wrong court. –

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