The Department of Justice has approved the indictment of Customs fixer Mark Ruben Taguba II and eight others for violation of the Customs law for their alleged involvement in the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China into the country last year.
In a resolution, the DoJ found probable cause to file criminal charges against Taguba and his alleged co-conspirators and hold them liable for violation of Section 1400, which penalizes misdeclaration, misclassifaction, undervaluation in goods declaration, and Section 1401, which penalizes unlawful importation and exportation, of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
The complaint filed by the Bureau of Customs for violation of Section 1403 that penalizes other fraudulent practices against Customs revenue was junked for lack of probable cause, but the relevant case records have been elevated to the Office of the Secretary of Justice for automatic review.
Aside from Taguba, the DoJ also recommended the indictment of Eirene Mae Tatad, Teejay Marcellana, Chen Ju Long (aka “Richard Tan,” “Richard Chen”), Fidel Anoche Dee, Chen I. Min, Jhu Ming Jyun, Li Guang Feng (aka “Manny Li”), Dong Yi Shen (aka “Kenneth Dong”) and other John and Jane Does.
In the Aug. 14, 2018 resolution signed by Assistant State Prosecutor Charlie Guhit, the DoJ said that the facts discovered during the DoJ’s preliminary investigation “would readily support the conclusion” that the nine respondents were “interested” in bringing into the country the container that carried five metal cylinders concealing dangerous drugs.
The DoJ was not convinced by the respondent’ assertions that the importation papers they signed, processed and filed at the BoC declared only an importation of “cutting boards, footwear, kitchenware and ‘moulds.’”
“For, documents would not recite the clandestinely imported goods. The dangerous drugs were concealed with legally imported merchandise on the chance that the former could escape detection. Or, if discovered, the respondents could, by improper methods, obtain delivery thereof just the same. Smugglers thrive on their wits,” the DoJ said.
While the transactions between the nine appear to be “compartmentalized,” the circumstances supposedly point towards the accomplishment of the alleged smuggling “through conspiracy.”
“Respondents’ defense that they were not aware that the shipment they received contained dangerous drugs deserves scant consideration. What matters is that they committed act/s which [have] a vital connection to the chain of conspiracy, that without such act, the unlawful importation would be unsuccessful,” the resolution stated.
The resolution was approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Miguel Gudio Jr. and approved by Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon.
Taguba and the other respondents face separate charges for illegal drug importation in connection with the same shabu haul before a Manila court.
The drug transportation case against them has been thrown out by a Valenzuela judge, but the DoJ intends to contest the decision before the Court of Appeals.
The Customs bureau, meanwhile, lauded the DoJ’s move to indict Taguba II and eight the others in connection with the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China.
Earlier, a Valenzuela court dismissed the illegal drug charges filed against Taguba and two other respondents for lack of probable cause and for forum shopping.
BoC subsequently elevated the case to office of DoJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra for automatic review.
The customs discovered the 602.2 kilograms of shabu from the Hongfei Logistics warehouse in Valenzuela City following a tip from the BOC’s counterpart in China in May last year.
“Clearly, respondents can be held liable as co-conspirators, financiers, facilitators and or principals, either by direct participation, indispensable cooperation and or inducement,” the BOC said.
“Defendants are one in their denial that there was no connivance among themselves. However, it is clear that based on their overt acts, each defendant may be constituted as principal by indispensable cooperation,” it added.
Meanwhile, the bureau filed five criminal cases against importers and customs brokers who were supposedly involved in smuggled shipments cumulatively valued at more than P20 million.
Among those charged are officers of Malaya Multi-Purpose Cooperative for large-scale agricultural smuggling of four containers of onions worth P2.5 million.
“Their importation consisted of four containers of onions which were concealed among cartons of apples and pears,” the BOC said in a statement.
Charged with large-scale agricultural smuggling are the officers of Malaya Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Oscar G. Catacutan, Mario Briones, Eddie Lalu, Randy Turla, and Alfredo Guevarra, and the customs broker Mary Faith Duran Miro for misdeclaring P2.5 million worth of onions, apples and pears.
The BOC also filed a separate case against Stanley Tan for importing P9.4-million of counterfeit cigarettes and assorted beauty products.
Another smuggling case was filed against Samuel Alvarado, a major stockholder and president of Pherica International Corporation, and customs broker Nazario Maglanque for smuggling of plush toys.
“The said importation, estimated at half a million, was made without the required import permit from the Food and Drug Administration ...” the BOC said.
Also facing charges were IT Malingco owner Tayuan Malingco and customs broker Erlinda Dumalao, and Power Buster Marketing owner Marnie Seguiran.
“We will be relentless in our efforts to apprehend smugglers and their cohorts,” Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña added.