Dads to probe refusal of BOC to reopen DEA

MEMBERS of the Davao City Council will look into the reasons why the leadership of the Bureau of Customs in the city is seemingly ignoring the request of City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to reopen the P250-million x-ray machine at the Sasa Port as one of the measures to improve the security and safety of the city against terrorism and other forms of criminal activities like smuggling of contraband goods and illegal drugs.

The mayor’s request is backed by resolutions of the Peace and Order Council and the City Tourism Council to reopen the P250-million x-ray machine facility at the Sasa Port as part of the city’s move to boost the city’s security against terrorism and other threats.

City Councilor Danilo C. Dayanghirang said the city council will call Customs Collector Erastus Sandino Austria to attend a council session to shed light on the status of the costly x-ray machine in Sasa Port which has been rendered useless for more than seven years now due to legal cases between the Bureau of Customs and businessman Rodolfo Reta, the owner of the container yard where the x-ray machine is lying idle.

Dayanghirang said the x-ray machine was installed in the designated examination area (DEA) inside the Aquarius Container Yard of Reta pursuant to a memorandum of agreement entered into by him and the then BOC commissioner sometime in 2009.

However, in February 2010, the DEA was suddenly closed by the then collector Anju Nereo Castigador, a move which was challenged by Reta in court. He filed administrative and criminal cases before the Ombudsman, against the BOC and its officials. As a result, Castigador was dismissed from the service with another local Customs employee. Two other Customs examiners charged by Reta were penalized by the Ombudsman with suspension orders.

One of the remaining cases pending in court was the stand of the BOC that the MOA with Reta had been validly rescinded. However, Reta maintained that the MOA was not rescinded and went to court. After Reta was granted favorable rulings in the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals, the BOC appealed the case with the Supreme Court where it is now pending.

Through the Regional Trial Court, Reta was also successful in stopping two attempts by Customs officials to take the x-ray machine out of the DEA inside his container yard. In both instances, the court sided with Reta, according to Dean Manuel Quibod of the Ateneo de Davao University College of Law, who is one of the lawyers of the businessman.

Despite these two failed attempts to remove the x-ray machine from the DEA, Austria was quoted to have expressed preference to transfer the x-ray machine outside the container of Reta. He said the facility cannot be reopened in its current location —inside Reta’s container yard, allegedly because it is the view of a former solicitor general (Solgen) that the BOC’s contract with the businessman has already been rescinded.

Austria’s view was contradicted by Quibod, Reta’s lawyer, who said that the Solgen’s opinion is just an opinion and it has no controlling effect because the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the issue.

Quibod also said he was expressed surprised why Austria is invoking the opinion of former Solgen Francis Jardeleza when past Customs’ commissioners and Davao Customs collectors have not invoked it, knowing that it has no controlling effect.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, the mayor, who heads both the CPOC and City Tourism Council, expressed exasperation over the inaction of Austria on the city government’s urgent request to have the x-ray machine reopened.

“Our point with CPOC is to use the x-ray machine because of the urgency of the security threat,” said the mayor.

Dayanghirang said he is looking into the x-ray machine controversy as an official of the city council where he is chairman of several influential committees on finance, ways and means and appropriations. He is also making the move as the national chairman of the Philippine Councilors League with 16,000 members nationwide.

“The threats posed by terrorism are felt worldwide and experienced by our city and entire country many times in the recent past, “ Dayanghirang said, citing the bombing of Roxas Avenue last year as well as the ongoing Maute rebellion in Marawi City as among the instances.

“We are interested to find out why is Collector Austria delaying action on the urgent request of Mayor Inday to reopen the x-ray machine for the greatest good of the greatest number of people in Davao,” he said.

“As city official and citizen of Davao, to me the most important function of the x-ray machine, if put into use again, is to help strengthen the security of the city in these troubled times,” he added. CQF

Posted in Business