MISAMIS Oriental second district Rep. Juliette Uy yesterday blasted Misamis Oriental Provincial Board Member Gerardo Sabal III.
“Why get in the way of justice? Whose side are you on? Rep. Uy quoted Vice Governor Joey Pelaez of Misamis Oriental asking Sabal apparenty referring to Verde Soko, Phividec Administrator Franklin Quijano, Phividec Port Asssistant Manager Efledo Resma.
“Sabal did not base his latest arguments on facts, therefore his allegations are fake news and falsehoods,” Rep Uy said.
She said Quijano testified before the committee and responded to questions posed on February 26 and March 15.
“The Verde Soko officials chose not to attend the hearing even after they were duly notified,” she added.
The joint committee hearing adhered to due process and Quijano and the Verde Soko officials had their opportunity to be heard. Quijano availed of that opportunity while the Verde Soko officials did not.
House committees investigating the garbage importation, upon motion of Iligan City Rep. Frederick Siao, decided to recommend the suspension of Customs Collector Floro Calixihan.
The House panels also called on the Phividec Industrial Estate Authority board of directors to suspend Quijano.
A letter from Verde Soko and importation documents were the committees’ bases for recommending the suspension of the Customs officials.
Siao said Calixihan “acted like employee of Verde Soko, instead of being officials of the Philippine government, when they signed a letter prepared by Verde Soko days before the garbage shipment arrived.”
“Maling-mali itong ginawa ni Calixihan. Sa pagpirma ni Calixihan sa dokumentong iyon, dated July 19, 2018, pinayagan ni Calixihan ang pagpasok ng kargamento ng Verde Soko kahit di pa ito sumasailalim sa inspeksyon at di pa nababayaran ang mga tamang buwis. Dumating yung kargamento na mahigit 5,000 metric tons ng basura pala ang laman noong July 21, 2018,” Siao explained.
“There was planning and coordination in the misdeclared importation and Calixihan was part of it based on the available evidence,” Siao added.
Siao also recommended to the House panels that Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero launch an internal investigation on Calixihan.
“Suspending Calixihan is necessary to preserve documents and contain any likely damage they have done. He must also be held responsible for the non-collection of import duties as a result of allowing the garbage shipments to be transferred out of the port without payment of the duties,” Siao said.
The Iligan City congressman said Calixihan may have violated a host of customs and environment laws by their actions.
“Phividec administrator Quijano should be suspended because he failed at his job. He allowed Verde Soko to operate even when he knew the company was incapable of recycling plastic,” Uy said during the house probe in Cagayan de Oro.
Uy also said “Quijano did not hold Verde Soko accountable and responsible for importing garbage and hazardous waste and after he knew Verde Soko had fake documents from Green Soko in South Korea.”
As Phividec administrator, Quijano is vice chairman of the Phividec board. Congresswoman Uy said Phividec may appoint an acting administrator.
“Suspending Quijano is necessary to make sure official documents, notes and other information materials are intact and preserved,” she said.
“If Quijano resigns, he still does not escape administrative, criminal, and civil liability for his actions and inaction as Phividec administrator,” the Misamis Oriental congresswoman said.
Plastic recycling operations of Verde Soko are “make believe” but the garbage they imported all the way from South Korea is very real, according to Uy, who said she would not be surprised if the NBI would either amend the charges or file new ones to include officials of the Bureau of Customs and the Phividec Industrial Estate Authority.
The House of Representatives hearing was jointly convened by the Committees on Good Governance and Public Accountability, Local Government, and Ecology. Present in the investigation were Reps. Frederick Siao, Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Henry Oaminal, Romeo Acop, Carlos Zarate, Gary Alejano, Luis “Jon-Jon” Ferrer, Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez, and Ecology Committee Chair Dakila Carlos Cua.
The National Bureau of Investigation criminal charges against Verde Soko officials are already filed with the Department of Justice prosecutor in Misamis Oriental.
“We had a very clinical and productive hearing during which the committees convened methodically dissected the timeline, procedures, and statements of the resource persons who gave their sworn testimony. In my mind, the failures of Phividec and of Customs district are clear,” Uy said.
Uy noted that during the House hearing on the Verde Soko garbage, Phividec board Chairman Jesus Guevarra II, drawing from his experience as a banker, said he “forewarned” Phividec Administrator Franklin Quijano about the “reputational issues” surrounding Verde Soko.
Guevarra said Verde Soko’s importation of the garbage is “illegal…done in haste.”
He also said the Phividec locator company “should have imported machineries first.”
Uy said, “Quijano was evasive during his testimony, kept blaming Customs, relied only on presentations without verifying if those presentations were faithful representations of the truth.”
“Quijano had the duty to check whether what Verde Soko was presenting was the truth. He had the duty to know his customer. Quijano failed at that,” the congresswoman added.
PHIVIDEC DID NOT BOTHER TO CHECK
IF VERDE SOKO IS REALLY A PLASTICS RECYCLER
Rep. Uy said she “will ask the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit of Phividec. The officials there have certainly been grossly negligent and incompetent at the very least.”
“How Phividec allowed Verde Soko to operate is mind-boggling. The investigation of the Customs intelligence officials and of the Mindanao International Container Port clearly indicates Verde Soko is a shell that is just filled with garbage but with no plastic recycling equipment and machinery,” she added.
Uy said Phividec administrator Franklin Quijano and other Phividec officials knew there was already something wrong at Verde Soko and the best they could do was ask them to “show cause” and then receive letters from Verde Soko.
“The most laughable parts of Quijano’s testimony was when he admitted knowing Verde Soko had only one piece of rusting equipment,” the congresswoman pointed out.
During his testimony at the House hearing, Quijano said: “In their presentation, they [Verde Soko] were supposed to install 30 machines. But they were able to install only one. And it did not have any activity right now. It is already in the state of rusting your Honor.”
“I was only slightly amused by how Phividec administrator Franklin Quijano was hiding behind procedures and word play. It was apparent to me that he was making it appear there is no coordinating mechanism at the Phividec berthing facilities,” Uy said.
“Complete and total imbeciles they are over there at the leadership of Phividec. For starters, they deserve to undergo COA special audit,” according to Uy.
SHIPMENT WAS NOT INSPECTED
TO CHECK FOR MISDECLARATION
Iligan City Rep. Frederick Siao said he will recommend to Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero that he confer a medal or formal commendation to MICT Port Collector John M. Simon and Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Agents Joel Pinawin, Oliver Valiente, and Abdul Sultan because “these gentlemen truly did their jobs here. They deserve the commendation.”
Simon and his team were the ones who discovered the misdeclaration of the imported cargo of garbage.
Assessing the outcome of the House joint hearing, Siao said Customs Collector Floro Calixihan “got caught in his own web of incompetence and smokescreens.”
Siao said, “all the over 6,000 metric tons of garbage from South Korea was able to come into our country because Collector Calixihan allowed it to happen.”
“Without inspection, then Customs Port Collector, now District Collector Floro Calixihan, Jr. admitted authorizing the physical transfer of the shipments of garbage from the port to Verde Soko facilities and he did not collect or impose the import duties,” Rep. Siao said.
Rep. Uy said, “Masyadong naging maliksi itong si Calixihan. Wala raw siyang nakitang kahina-hinalang impormasyon sa mga dokumentong hawak nila. Now, contrast that admission of his versus the findings of the South Korean government that Green Soko used fake documents.”
She said it should be the basic competency of any customs officer to know the difference between fake and real import documents.
Siao described as “comedic” the efforts of Calixihan “to hide behind an old 2010 Customs memo to justify expediting the transfer of custody of the garbage shipment to Verde Soko.”
“Hindi bumenta ang palusot ni Calixihan. Akala yata niya mabobola niya kami. Kulang ang paghahanda niya para sa hearing, mas handa kami,” Siao said.
During the hearing, Collector Calixihan said, “Naexamine na po yun sa country of source… In this kind of shipment, break and bulk, pursuant to Customs Memorandum Order 18-2010, dinadala po siya sa consignee’s warehouse or plant site.”
Rep. Siao pointed out that “the Customs memo Calixihan is using as his defense or shield reminds all BoC personnel to watch out for circumvention tactics, among which is misdeclaration.”
“How should Customs officials determine whether there is misdeclaration? They should either examine the documents for falsification or tampering. They should also inspect the cargo by just taking some samples,” the congressman added.
“Collector Calixihan said during the hearing he did not inspect the shipment. Remember that weeks ago before the hearing, the DENR categorically said they did not issue any import permit for Verde Soko and that the South Korean government said the shipping documents from Green Soko are fake. Whose credibility is now in question?” Siao said.