By LIGALIG MIKE ORTEGA
The management of Cebu Lite Trading Inc. has denied the allegations hurled by Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson after three of the corporation’s officials were implicated in an alleged large-scale smuggling case allegedly in connivance with the embattled former Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.
Although the corporation has not received a copy of the complaint which was filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, the company’s officials have said that “we can surmise that Senator Lacson may have been misinformed or does not have access to the correct and complete facts.”
Saying that the company has been “caught in the crossfire” in the war between Lacson and Faeldon, it noted that its officials have also been “unnecessarily and unfairly dragged into this mess.”
Earlier, Filomena Lim, Lucio Roger Lim Jr., and Rowena Lim, all of Cebu Lite Trading Inc., were implicated in the smuggling case filed by Lacson against Faeldon, as detailed in a 39-page complaint-affidavit.
Also named in the complaint were National Food Authority administrator Jason Aquino, former Port of Cagayan de Oro district collector Tomas Alcid, BOC Liaison Officer to NFA Geniefelle Lagmay, and other private individuals – Joselito Lopez, Josephine Rizalde, and Ambrosio Ursal Jr.
Lacson accused the said respondents as alleged conspirators in a smuggling activity involving 21,800 bags of white rice, allegedly all without payment of customs taxes and duties and with the alleged use of fake or fraudulent import documents.
But Cebu Lite Trading, an affiliate company of the Boholano-owned Lite Shipping Corporation, in a press statement claimed they have not done any wrongdoing in their rice importation activity.
“Records will speak for itself. In the four years that the company have (sic) participated in the MAV-CSQ Importation Program of the National Food Authority (NFA), it has fully complied with the law, and pertinent MAV-CSQ importation guidelines issued by the NFA and Bureau of Customs,” the company said.
Contrary to Lacson’s allegations, Cebu Lite Trading said it has paid “correct taxes and duties to the government and did not use expired or fake import permits for our rice importation.”
Cebu Lite Trading has dared Lacson to verify records at that NFA and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), disclosing that it had deposited a total of P73.2 million for “applicable customs duties and taxes.”
“At the very least, the good senator could have easily verified the facts from us before filing the complaint,” the corporation said.
The company said that based on NFA data, it would show that some 2 million bags of MAV quota rice arrived in the country in March 2017.
However, the company expressed surprise after Lacson had singled out three of its corporate officers.
“Why is our company being singled out when there were many importers and traders whose rice imports arrived basically the same circumstances?” the company’s statement said.
The company said its officers would be able to answer all allegations made by Lacson at the proper forum.
It added that the company would eventually be exonerated by the Office of the Ombudsman.
“We will present evidences to disprove that we used expired or fake import permits, conspired with the named government officials or failed to pay taxes and import duties to the government,” Cebu Lite Trading said.
Senator Lacson on Thursday, September 28, filed before the Office of the Ombudsman a complaint against Faeldon in connection with the alleged corruption at the BOC.
Faeldon, together with Aquino and eight others (including the three Lims of Cebu Lite Trading) are facing charges of graft, economic sabotage and grave misconduct before the Ombudsman.
Lacson accused Faeldon of allegedly allowing the shipment of forfeited smuggled rice worth P34 million into the country.
“Because the subject shipments released to (Cebu Lite Trading Inc.) were considered property of the Republic of the Philippines because of the abandonment orders issued, and since there was no showing that CLTI exerted earnest effort to first cause the lifting of said orders of abandonment, the rice contained in the two shipments are, by operation of law, forfeited in favor of the Government,” the complaint said.
Lacson said the forfeited shipments of rice entered the Port of Cagayan de Oro City in March this year despite not having proper permits.
The rice, about 40,000 bags, were declared forfeited in April this year and were supposed to be disposed of.
Lacson said that Aquino instead issued papers for the shipments retroactively despite no law authorizing him to do so.
He said more complaints will be filed against the former BOC chief, including charges in connection with the “tara” or bribery system at the BOC.
During his privilege speech at the Senate last August, Lacson divulged a “tara” list containing alleged bribe givers or players and collectors or bagmen at the BOC.
Faeldon was included in the alleged list of recipients of tara or payola released by Lacson.
In his privilege speech, Lacson claimed that Faeldon was aware of the “tara” system at the BOC, which has been corrupting the agency for so long. (with a report from PNA)