Customs employee arrested for alleged extortion

Posted at 08/14/2014 4:42 PM

MANILA - A Customs employee was arrested Tuesday for allegedly asking for bribe money to facilitate the clearance of used clothing (ukay-ukay) seized by the Bureau.

The employee, Ethel Bernas, holds the rank Customs Operations Officer III (COO 3) and is assigned at the Auction and Cargo Disposal Division of the BOC at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Collection District.

She was arrested following a complaint filed by a certain Jane Louise Balse with the Customs Police.

According to Balse, Bernas offered to facilitate the release of container vans loaded with used clothing from Hong Kong and the United States in exchange for an initial payment of P1 million.

Bernas allegedly asked Balse for additional payment of P425,000, purportedly intended for other BOC officials.

Balse claimed that even after producing the money and paying Bernas, the shipment was not released after certain documents were not signed.

Last August 8, Balse claimed Bernas called her and demanded P155,000. She then filed the complaint.

Republic Act No. 4653 bans the commercial importation of used clothing and textiles "to protect the health of the Filipinos and to preserve the Filipino dignity."

Bernas will face charges related to violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Direct Bribery and Estafa.

On top of this, Bernas could face administrative charges under the BOC Code of Conduct and related civil service laws.

Bernas was earlier found guilty of Grave Misconduct by the Ombudsman. In a six-page decision dated June 25, 2014, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang approved the verdict and meted Bernas with the penalty of Dismissal from the Service. The dismissal was effective last July 31, 2014.

However, Bernas continued to go to her office at BOC-NAIA claiming that she filed an appeal before the Ombudsman.