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Customs chief Lina, other ex-BOC officals face plunder charges

(Updated 6:15 p.m.) Just over two months after being appointed as commissioner of the Bureau of Customs, Alberto Lina is facing graft and plunder charges at the Office of the Ombudsman.

Lina, as well as former Customs Commissioner Guillermo Parayno Jr. and former Customs Deputy Commissioner Primo Aguas are being sued for supposedly cancelling without any basis a P650-million contract on the integrated window processing system for the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
The officials must be held liable for influencing the bidding and cancelling the P650-million contract, Annabelle Margaroli of Omni Prime Marketing Inc.-Intrasoft Joint Venture (OMI-Intrasoft JV), said in a 30-page complaint.
Margaroli was assisted by OMI legal counsel Harry Roque in the filing the complaint.
The contract covers the creation of a National Single Window (NSW) system, a central database that for trackick in real time all Customs procedures and transactions nationwide.
In November 2014, OMI-Intrasoft, E-Konek Pilipinas and three other bidders submitted their eligibility documents for the project, Margaroli said, noting that Lina has a 96.48 percent stake in E-Konek. 
Then in Decembert the BOC disqualified the three bidders except for OMI-Intrasoft and E-Konek.
Parayno is the president of E-Konek, the current BOC database provider.
OMI-Intrasoft submitted all the technical and financial proposals, and was invited to join the bidding last February, according to the complaint.
But Deputy Commissioner who "... was not part of the Bids and Awards Committee, stepped in and required the OMI project team to undergo a series of interviews," Margaroli claimed.
"This undue imposition by Aguas delayed the selection of the Highest Rated Bid (HRB) for nearly two months," she said.
While the interview process was still ongoing, Aguas made a public announcement that if the bidding fails there would be a rebidding or an updated version of the current database would be adopted, Margaroli noted.
On April 13, 2015, OMI-Intrasoft was declared the winner and the contract was finalized after a week. It was scheduled to be signed at the end of that month.
But on April 24, Lina replaced then Customs Commissioner John Sevilla who resigned from his post.
Two weeks after Lina was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III to the bureau, he canceled the P650-million contract.

'On flimsy ground'
"On May 6, he issued a notice to the Department of Budget and Management cancelling the contract on the flimsy ground that he needed to review all the projects in the pipeline entered into by the Commission before he assumed office," OMI-Intrasoft said in a press statement.
Cancelling the contract "was a clear case of conflict of interest" as Lina has a majority stake in E-Konek, Margaroli said.
"The cancellation by respondent Lina was a grave instance of a criminal conflict of interest, manifest illegal partiality and malevolent bad faith because it benefitted E-Konek Pilipinas, respondent Parayno and ultimately, respondent Lina himself and his family as he has a 96.48 percent stake in the said company," Margaroli said in her complaint affidavit.
The charge alleged Lina, Parayno and Aguas conspired in a series of overt criminal acts to delay and to eventually cancel the OMI-Intrasoft JV contract
E-Konek was earning between P100 million to P500 million annually from the bureau, the complainant also alleged.
As of this posting, GMA News Online is still trying to get the side of Aguas on the matter.

Lina refused to direclty comment on the charges.
"I am focused on my job here in Customs. We haven't received a copy of these charges so until our legal department sees it, no comment," Lina said in a text message to reporters.
Aside from the cancellation of the OMI contract, two other cases were added to the complaint. One was the clearance Lina allegedly gave for the release of broadcasting equipment belonging to GMA Network using fake import permits. The shipment was handled by 2100 CB and U-Freight, companies allegedly owned by Lina. 
Roque, however, clarified that they found no evidence that GMA Network had anything to do with the case. 
In a separate statement last May, GMA Network said it has "... fully complied with all the requirements pertaining to the importation of the said equipment which are necessary for upgrading our facilities.
"The discontinuance of customs processing for the release of the equipment issued by the BOC was caused by the alleged infractions committed by an employee of our broker 2100 CBI. GMA had absolutely nothing to do with the alleged irregularities," it added.
Roque said Lina must also be investigated for supposedly refusing to act on charges that U-Freight and his other company, Nague Malic Magnawa and Associates, were allegely involved in the missing 771 shipments of airplane parts for Zest Air worth at least P1.5 billion.
"These allegations further underline the benefits that Lina stand to lose if the new integrated system won by OMI is implemented," Roque claimed. – VS, GMA News