For Reference: Atty. Harry L. Roque Jr. 09175398096
Click here to download a copy of the Omniprime vs Lina, Parayno and Aguas complaint filed at the Ofice of the Ombudsman today.
Customs Commissioner Alberto D. Lina, former Customs Commissioner Guillermo Parayno Jr. and former Customs Deputy Commissioner Primo Aguas face graft and plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with a cancelled Php 650 million contract to integrate a modern integrated customs processing system at the Bureau of Customs.
Lina and Aguas also face charges for violating the new government procurement law provisions prohibiting delays in the implementation of a government project.
The integrated system, along with a national single window, is seen as the long-sought after solution to rampant smuggling in the Philippines. It establishes a central database system that tracks in real time all customs procedures nationwide. It aims to be a fully electronic, paperless and human contact-free system of recording and monitoring customs transactions.
Meanwhile, the national single window consolidates relevant services from all government agencies involved in customs procedures using international standards.
The bidding for the project opened in October last year.
In November 2014, five prospective bidders – including E-Konek Pilipinas headed by Parayno and the winning bidder, OMI-Intrasoft Joint Venture(OMI-Intrasoft JV)– submitted eligibility documents for the integrated system.
E-Konek Pilipinas, is a company where Lina has a 96.48 percent stake.
In addition, the corporation behind the now antiquated systems used by the Bureau of Customs – the foreign computer systems company Unisys, subcontracted the implementation of the E2M to partners Webb Fontaine – and E-konek Pilipinas when it developed the existing computer system at the BoC.
By December 2014, with the exception of the OMI-Intrasoft JV – all of the prospective bidders had been disqualified for one reason or another by the DBM Bids and Awards Committee and TWG. Subsequently, the joint venture was invited to formally bid for the project and in February this year, it submitted its technical and financial proposals for the project
However, Deputy Commissioner Aguas, although he was not part of the Bids and Awards Committee, stepped in, trying to influence the BAC, and TWG. He required the DBM BAC and TWG to re-evaluate the results of the eligibility hoping to accommodate his favoured bidders asking them to relax the procurement law, while negatively criticizing the JV of OMI-Intrasoft during the BAC meetings that he attended. To further delay the award of the project, he also required the JV’s project team members to undergo series of interviews, in violation of Republic Act 9184, the new law governing government procurement procedures.
And while the interview process he required to be made was ongoing, he made public announcements preempting that in the event the bidding process fails, there would be a rebidding, or an updated version of the current system would be adopted.
This undue imposition by Aguas delayed the selection of the Highest Rated Bid (HRB) for more than two months.
On April 13 this year, the joint venture Omniprime Marketing Incorporated and Intrasoft International was finally declared winner of the seven-month long public bid. Ten days later, on April 23, the contract was finalized and it was scheduled to be signed by the end of the same month.
However, on April 24, Lina replaced reformist Commissioner John Sevilla under controversial circumstances. It took him only two weeks to cancel a contract that has undergone two biddings: on May 6, he issued a notice to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) cancelling the contract on the flimsy ground that he needed to review all the projects in the pipeline entered by the Commissioner before he assumed office and also said that the project was not needed anymore.
In her 30-page Complaint-Affidavit, Ms. Margaroli, representative of Omniprime Marketing, charged that Lina’s decision to unceremoniously cancel the contract was a clear case of conflict of interest. He and his conspirators are thus liable for graft.
“The cancellation by Respondent Lina was a grave instance of a criminal conflict of interest, manifest illegal partiality and malevolent bad faith because it benefited E-Konek Pilipinas, Respondent Parayno and ultimately, Respondent Lina himself and his family, as he has a 96.48 percent stake in the said company headed by Parayno – which same company also bid but was disqualified from the NSW 2 project bid, “ said Margaroli, in her complaint for graft.
She was assisted in the filing by her counsel, Atty. Harry Roque of the Roque and Butuyan Law Offices.
Margaroli said Aguas, who resigned shortly after Lina took office, was behind “the manufactured and pre-meditated delay accomplished and obtained the planned-for opportunity for Respondent Lina to effect the cancellation of the project.”
“E-Konek Pilipinas, as an existing Service Provider of the BOC, stands to continue reaping benefits from the perpetuation of the current inefficient and dysfunctional system that had been intended for elimination by the implementation of Phase 2 of the PNSW with Enhanced Customs Processing System. Being the President of E-Konek Pilipinas, Respondent Parayno is an inevitable beneficiary of the criminal acts of Respondents Lina and Aguas, and an indispensable party/conspirator who is now calling the shots at the BOC’s MISTG or ICT Dept., as Lina’s I.T. adviser, while sitting as President of E-KONEK”.
“Having access to all the data of the importers/exporters entered into their VASP system, E-KONEK being the only VASP who’s other sister companies in the Lina Group of companies are involve in other Customs related services, i.e., brokerage, forwarding, logistics and bonded warehouse rental and management to name a few, is therefore able to corner all of these other related services to importers of BOC other than the icing on the cake earnings, charging P50.00 per transaction fee they get, per transaction entry. The BOC Website shows that there are at least 3 Million transactions per year or equivalent to 150M Pesos per year.”
For his part, Roque said the Ombudsman should investigate Lina and Parayno for plunder, charging that
Lina, Aguas and Parayno conspired in a series of overt criminal acts to delay and to eventually cancel the contract in which OMI-Intrasoft JV had the highest rated bid, so that E-Konek Pilipinas may continue its lucrative but highly-inefficient and corruption-prone business with the BOC valued at between Php 100 million and Php 500 million or more annually.
Moreover, he pointed to two additional overt acts committed by Respondent Lina which accentuate his liability for plunder, as follows:
a. the clearance he gave to the release of broadcasting equipment belonging to the GMA Network handled by two of his corporations –2100 CB and U-Freight – using allegedly fake import permits, and;
b. Lina’s refusal to act on charges that U-Freight and another of his companies, the Nague Malic Magnawa & Associates Customs Brokers and U-Freight–linked to missing 771 shipments of airplane parts for the airline company Zest Air worth at least Php 1.5 billion.
“The above-mentioned last two cases,” according to Roque, “further underline the financial benefits Respondent Lina and Respondent Parayno stand to lose if the new systems won by OMI-Intrasoft JV in competitive bidding and which Respondent Lina cancelled is actually implemented and the series of acts of plunder Respondents have committed.”
ASEAN member-states have agreed on a common window system to fast-track cargo clearance as they move towards regional integration. The system complies international open communication standards while ensuring that each of country can exchange data securely and reliably with any trading partners that use international open standards. Its hallmarks are a simpler and faster processing time, and a more transparent way of doing business.
Said to be already ten years in the making, the national single window is a key component of the country’s goal to join a single ASEAN Market by the end of this year.
But Lina’s decision to cancel the contract for the two consolidated projects is said to delay the country’s integration into the single ASEAN Market, and insisted on having the ASYCUDA SYSTEM to be implemented while knowing too well that the re-bid alone will take more than 6 months to happen already.
Also, even without any factual basis at the time of the cancellation, he said that using the ASYCUDA system would cost the government only 50% of the cost of the 650 Million approved budget, which was actually already reduced by 300 Million from its original budget of 950Million Pesos by then Commissioner Sevilla.
Lina knows for a fact, that even at this time, there has been no formal proposal yet coming from UNCTAD for the same terms of reference provided to the bidders of the PNSW project. Where then did Lina get his figures to state that he is saving the country the said amount? In fact, from information gathered, UNCTAD representatives requires the BOC to even pay for all their airfare and hotel expenses just to be able to make an evaluation of the requirement of the BOC when asked to provide a proposal based on the same Terms of Reference provided to the winning bidder.
“While our clients spent so much time, money and effort to be able to comply with all the bid requirements using their own resources, Mr. Lina does not even care about these sacrifices that the bidder invested to comply in this bidding,” said Roque. ” And when it is finally due for final award, Lina just canceled the contract without any consultations from any of the BOC authorized representatives to the BAC and/or the Technical Working Group, who knows more what the BOC needs as they are chosen to be so, having no known conflict of interest in any CUSTOMS business.”
In the 2007 ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint the ASEAN Single Window is crucial to the free circulation of goods in the envisioned single market, single production base integrated economic community.
In his May 6 notice, Lina said that upon his assumption into office, he initiated a comprehensive review of all the BOC projects already in the pipeline. According to him, because of the immense scale of the PNSW2 project, it has to be abandoned.
Acting on his directive, the very next day, DBM Executive Director, lawyer Jose Tomas Syquia sent the winning bidder a notice of cancellation.
Subsequently, Lina announced that he intends to re-bid the project, with an eye on the ASYCUDA system, which he claimed, has won the endorsement of the World Bank, and by a committee at the BOC before he was even appointed for the position. These were all lies and we kindly advise Comm Lina to stop using the name of our Lord in his chain of lies, Atty. Roque added. In reality, he prefers to use ASYCUDA because it is the same system that E-KONEK uses for his provided services as VASP (Value Added Service Provider)at BOC. The VASPs serves as gateway in the import and export entries for the stakeholders to enter their transactions first before it is sent to enter and be processed by the BOC E2M system. In fact, in the World Bank, JASTPRO and the 2014 COA summary reports, it was evaluated and suggested for the VASP services to be eliminated already and allow the direct entry of all transaction to BOC’s system when the new 2Interact Customs system is installed.
They said that it is where the manipulations of documents take place before it is entered into the system that gives way to corruption and billions of pesos in losses in the government coffers.
In a motion for reconsideration submitted in late May this year, Roque told the offices of both Lina and Syquia that the cancellation was without any “justifiable and reasonable” legal basis.
“As a matter of fact, Commissioner Lina’s supposed need to merely review the project constitute a most unjust and unreasonable ground to order DBM-PS to abandon the project,” said Roque in his five-page Motion for Reconsideration. “On the contrary, the cancellation constitutes a capricious and arbitrary basis, and amounts to an outright grave abuse of discretion. If at all, the reason invoked for the cancellation of the project proves that there is the utter absence of a pre-existing factual and legal bases to abruptly cancel the contract.”
Lina did not respond to the Motion for Reconsideration yet sent to his office by the Roque and Butuyan law office in behalf of their client.
Syquia replied to the Motion, saying that he was merely following Lina’s instructions and was not in a position to rescind the cancellation ordered by the latter.
However, the current system used by the BOC and developed by Webb Fontaine cannot be integrated with the NSW Phase 1 done by Crown Agents. The World Bank itself has bewailed its many inefficiencies, as well as its susceptibility to rampant corruption.