Customs officer dismissed over undeclared wealth

Posted at 03/21/14 12:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A Bureau of Customs officer in Cagayan de Oro has been dismissed after being found guilty by the Office of the Ombudsman for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.

Eduardo Ginea Wong, acting chief of the BOC Assessment Division, Port of Cagayan de Oro City, was found to have omitted his businesses and various real estate in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

Aside from dismissal, Wong will also be disqualified from office and suffer forfeiture of retirement benefits and cancellation of Civil Service eligibility.

The Department of Finance- Revenue Integrity Protection Service had filed a case against Wong after a lifestyle check discovered he had several real estate properties in Misamis Oriental, despite his lack of financial capacity.

"Let it be noted that based on the Service Record of the respondent his monthly salary, to date, is only P30,665.00 per month. The amount will still be subjected to deductions for GSIS contribution, Philhealth and cost of living expenses, among others. The question is: How can he justify his landholdings, real and personal properties as against his salary even if combined with the income of his wife? He failed to present that his wife’s income is sufficient to acquire the cost of all the properties,” the Ombudsman said in its decision.

The DOF-RIPS probe showed Wong had businesses such as My Rice & Corn Mills, My Fastfoods, Anton’s Barbershop, and building and house rentals. For the latter, relevant certifications, business permits, and tax assessment records showed that Wong’s wife was indicated as a lessor, doing business under the trade name MGW Enterprises.

For the charge of serious dishonesty, the DOF-RIPS noted Wong declared P1.38 million houses in Barra, Opol, Misamis Oriental in 2000 to 2009 SALNs, which he acquired from 1983 to 2003.

But when the DOF-RIPS team visited the property, they discovered 15 single-detached and duplex-type residential properties which were being rented out to various tenants.

Wong only earned P20,250 a month as a Customs Examiner during the time of construction of the said houses, while his wife was a former school teacher.

"What is apparent from the Tax Declarations is that the lots were declared as residential, however, there was no mention of existing buildings. Such is taken by this Office as another form of dishonesty and concealment on the respondent’s part," the Ombudsman said.

Wong did not declare his businesses in his SALN, saying they were put up in a span of 15 years and did not involve “substantial” funds.

The Ombudsman noted: "Ir is quite alarming to note that the respondent considers as ‘not substantial’ the capital investments made on My Fastfoods and Anton’s Barbershop, causing him not to report the same. Also, the sari-sari store of his wife that was not included in his SALN was referred to as ‘so inconsequential’, emphasis is made that regardless of the amounts involved, whether they be substantial or otherwise, consequential or inconsequential, it is the respondent’s duty to report the same in his SALN as the law dictates him to do so. The question now is this: If the respondent is able to declare only what he wants to declare, what else has he left undeclared?"