Forfeiture of dead Customs official's unexplained wealth sought

Posted at 03/13/14 3:05 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman has directed the filing of a petition of forfeiture for the unexplained wealth and retirement benefits of a Customs officer, who died in 2007.

In a statement, the Department of Finance's Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) said Ombudsman issued the resolution dated June 20, 2013 directing the filing of a petition for forfeiture against Customs Operations Officer Prudencio Lopez Macaranas with the Regional Trial Court of Parañaque City.

RIPS' investigation showed Macaranas had excessive wealth of P22.8 million, even though he only had a P1.7 million salary as a BOC employee from 1974 to 2004.

The Ombudsman upheld RIPS' allegations of unexplained wealth against Macaranas.

"There is a prima facie showing that respondent acquired during his incumbency an amount of property and money manifestly out of proportion to his salary and his other lawful income and his wife’s lawful income,” which “is a sufficient cause for his removal or dismissal had he not died,” citing Sections 8 and 11 of RA 3019.

Macaranas died on January 10, 2007.

From his entry at the BOC on June 11, 1976 to December 2004, the Ombudsman noted Macaranas had "excess acquisitions amounting to P22,871,920.59" based on his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) and other supporting records. The bulk of the amount "pertained to an extravagant collection of real estate, motor vehicles, jewelries, among other properties."

Out of his net worth of P26.1 million durig the said period, RIPS said based on evidence, Macaranas' undeclared assets reached P4.39 million.

Tax records of the Macaranas couple confirmed that their income from other lawful sources was P881,943.00, while earnings from their purported family business, a brokerage firm Steadfast Air-Sea International, Inc., reached P667,323.43 for taxable years 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996 to 2004.

The Ombudsman also found substantial evidence against Macaranas for violations of RA 6713, dishonesty and grave misconduct, after RIPS established that his significant interests in Steadfast "likely caused conflict of interest" with his job as a Customs officer.

The Ombudsman also resolved that Macaranas "willfully and unlawfully made false declarations of his assets and true net worth in his SALNs, as required by law; and he unlawfully acquired assets as much as tenfold more than his salary and other lawful income and his wife’s lawful income."

Macaranas' administrative liabilities for grave misconduct and dishonesty warranted his dismissal from service, but in view of his death, the penalty of forfeiture of retirement benefits was imposed.

The resolutions Office of the Ombudsman were an offshoot of the complaint filed by RIPS against Macaranas on September 19, 2005.

"The Ombudsman's Resolution directing the filing of the forfeiture case on Macaranas's unexplained wealth sends an unequivocal message to all government officials: the consequences of corruption transcend generations. The best inheritance is not wealth but integrity," Undersecretary Carlo Carag, head of the DOF Revenue Operations and Legal Affairs Group, said.