Customs collector in Davao on the run

By Ben O. Tesiorna, Correspondent

 

DAVAO CITY — The highest official of the Bureau of Customs in the Davao region and part of Region 12 was cited for indirect contempt of court and ordered jailed for defying a court order that was sustained by the Court of Appeals and later by the Supreme Court.

 

The Regional Trial Court Branch 14 here in Davao City ordered for the arrest of lawyer Anju Nereo C. Castigador, OIC district collector of the Bureau of Customs of the Port of Davao.

 

However, police failed to arrest Castigador, said to be close to some Cabinet members of the Aquino administration, as he was able to fly out of Davao hours before the Omelio order was issued. Last Thursday, Castigador was among government officials who were present during the visit of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino at The Marco Polo Davao.

 

He was seen having an animated conversation with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, said to be his fellow alumnus of the College of Law of the Ateneo de Manila University, and some high officials of the BOC and the Department of Finance while waiting for President Aquino to come down from the conference room of the hotel.

 

HISTORY

 

The petition to cite Castigador for contempt and order him arrested stemmed from his refusal to allow a designated examination area (DEA) in a CONTAINER YARD- OUTSIDE CUSTOMS ZONE (CY-0CZ) AREA to reopen after his earlier act of closing it last February was questioned.

 

In a ruling issued last Friday, September 17,   RTC branch 14 Judge George E. Omelio also ordered Castigador arrested and detained at the Davao City jail in barangay Ma-a “to remain incarcerated” until he complies with the order of the court’s of last April 19.

 

The petition for contempt and arrest warrant was filed by Davao City businessman Rodolfo C. Reta when Castigador refused to reopen the DEA despite the August 4 ruling of the Supreme Court sustaining a Court of Appeals decision supporting a temporary restraining order earlier issued by Judge Omelio in Reta’s favor.

 

The TRO in effect ordered the resumption of operations within an area of the Acquarius Container Yard (ACY) of Reta as the designated examination area (DEA) of the government. The DEA operation, one of only two allowed in the country, is covered by a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Reta and the Customs bureau in January last year. The MOA provides that the government could use Reta’s container yard as DEA for 25 years.

 

The agreement was entered into by the BOC then headed by Commissioner Napoleon L. Morales and Reta after the Philippine Ports Authority officially informed the BOC that there was no space at the PPA-administered port where examination of cargoes could be conducted. It was a declaration PPA made as early as 2005.

 

In his complaint, Reta charged that the sudden closure of the DEA in his container yard last February came hours after he reported to Castigador that 40 container vans were found to be laden with rice instead of construction materials as earlier declared by the consignee.

 

BOC Xray inspector Nilo A. Lim had recommended that the containers be subjected to 100% physical examination. However, an employee of Reta informed him that a Customs official already issued gate passes for the containers even before they could be subjected to physical examination.

 

This prompted Reta to inform his lawyer, Manuel P. Quibod, to inform Castigador about the problem.

 

Instead of conducting his own investigation into the matter, Castigador accused Reta of refusing to “render service for the examination and subsequent release of containers brought to the designated examination area” thus the BOC official’s decision to rescind the MOA.

 

Reta charged that Castigador suddenly stopped the operations of DEA without due process. He also denied stopping the operations of DEA that day on his own claiming that no less than the BOC ordered him verbally to cease operation.

 

“It’s my business, so I am not crazy to deprive myself of an opportunity to earn,” he said, adding that “the reason I am usually quick in reporting irregularities to the Customs is because it is my duty as a cy-ocz  operator based on the Customs Administrative Order 5-94 which pertains to the rules and regulations in the supervision and control in the operation of CY-OCZ and that is to report any irregularities observed in the operation in the yard.”

 

Recently, report on ABS CBN showed that the BOC have spent two hundred sixty millions pesos in purchasing  for each x-ray machines. Here in Davao City, the BOC has three (3) x-ray machines and only one is being used which is the permanent x-ray within the DEA. 

 

The other two are mobile x-rays which arrived in 2008, a year after the permanent x-ray was installed.  These other two mobile x-rays are said to be used in the private ports of Tibungco and Panabo where there are also incoming foreign vessels.  These mobile x-rays however have been idle for two years until now where in it was moved to Sasa port as a “makeshift DEA”  after the BOC stopped its operation in the ACY. BOT