'Miracle at BOC' an inside job, says lawmaker

Posted at 07/18/14 2:30 PM

MANILA - The pilferage of seized diesel fuel at the Bureau of Customs-Port of Clark (POC) was no miracle but an inside job, a lawmaker said Friday.

Davao City congressman Karlo Alexei Nograles said the mysterious switching of the seized diesel to water while being stored right inside a Bureau of Customs facility shows an intricate pilferage operation perpetrated by a well-entrenched and well-networked syndicate in the bureau.

He urged Customs chief John Sevilla to conduct a sweeping internal probe.

"How can anyone sneak inside a secure storage facility, steal nearly 29,000 liters of diesel and get away undetected? This is definitely an inside job," Nograles said in a statement.

"If they can steal seized items such as these hard-to-transport contraband, what more with seized items that are portable and easily concealable such as garments and mobile phones? I heard a lot of stories about cellular phones and other dry goods that were seized by the BOC but are being resold in the black market," he added.

Nograles said he will file a resolution calling for a congressional probe on the diesel pilferage incident at the BOC.

Sevilla earlier confirmed the disappearance of 135 of a total 156 drums of diesel – with an estimated value of over P1 million – that were supposed to have been placed in a secure spot near the POC.

The disappearance of the drums did not happen overnight. The irregularity was first uncovered during the term of former Customs commissioner Rufino Biazon.

BOC-POC deputy district collector Greg Pineda said there is an ongoing internal investigation on the matter and they have also asked the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a separate probe.

Pineda admitted that some details remain unclear since the pilferage has been happening during the terms of four district collectors.

In April 2013, the POC discovered that 65 of the 156 drums were replaced with water and sludge. The drums were then transferred closer to the BOC-POC office, to a warehouse of a privately-owned Customs Clearance Area, for closer monitoring.

Last June 24, the POC again inspected the drums and was surprised to find that 50 more barrels of diesel contained water.

A police line was then placed around the storage area to stop the pilferage.

But seven days later, just as POC personnel were about to move the remaining 41 drums of diesel closer to their office, 14 of the containers were again discovered to have been filled with water.

Before sealing the drums the following day, BOC employees again checked on the contents of the drums and were dismayed to learn that six more were tampered and filled with water.

At present, only 21 of the 156 drums still contain diesel. With a report by The Philippine Star