Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cebu customs bureau gets new boss

By Elias O. Baquero

CEBU CITY -- One week after District Collector Ma. Lourdes V. Mangaoang of the Bureau of Customs Port of Cebu waved a reshuffling order that did not include her name, another order came Saturday transferring her to the Port of Iloilo.

In this sudden twist, Collector Gracia Zuño Karingal, who was supposed to be assigned to Subic under last week's order by Acting Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, will now replace Mangaoang in Cebu anytime this week.

Mangaoang and Karingal are at the center of a tug-of-war between influential politicians and power brokers from Congress and Malacañang.

Amid the controversy, some members of Cebu's business sector declared support for Mangaoang, whom they described as pro-active in facilitating trade.

While Mangaoang reportedly enjoys the support of House Speaker Jose de Venecia and Representatives Antonio Cuenco, Nerissa Soon-Ruiz, Herminio Teves and Raul del Mar, Karingal has supposedly secured endorsements from Representative Prospero Pichay and former Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Customs sources said that after Garcillano's call, President Arroyo ordered Morales to issue Customs Personnel Order 169-2006, transferring Karingal to Cebu. Karingal is currently deputy collector at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.


Cuenco said that if Morales' order does not bear the signature of Secretary Margarito Teves of the Department of Finance, then CPO 169-2006 violates a Malacañang directive.

Executive Order 133, which Arroyo issued last January, requires the finance secretary's approval in reshuffling district collectors. (Whether or not the order bears the finance secretary's signature could not be confirmed Saturday.)

"Outrageous!" Cuenco said when informed about reports that Arroyo's order to assign Karingal to Cebu could be influenced by a call from Garcillano.

Karingal could not be contacted for comment. But her aide, who identified himself as Sergeant Joel Bermejo, said he suspected that Garcillano's name was dragged into the fray so Karingal's transfer will be politicized.

Garcillano gained prominence in June last year, after the release of a wiretapped conversation in which Arroyo discusses her vote margin in the May 2004 election results, while results were still being canvassed.

Arroyo has apologized for a "lapse in judgment" but said the polls were not rigged. Garcillano has denied it was his voice on the tape.

Bermejo said that while Karingal already has a faxed copy of CPO 169-2006, she could not yet assume as collector of the Port of Cebu, because she has yet to get the original order from the Office of the Commissioner on Monday.


Bermejo also said that Karingal is hoping the Cebuano public will give her a chance to serve the Port of Cebu.

Karingal is facing charges for alleged violations of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3910, as amended, in the National Capital Region. Ombudsman Prosecutor Julita Calderon, who filed the case, stated that Karingal illegally facilitated the release of textiles and fabrics in September 2000, according to case records.

However, Bermejo said Karingal would eventually be exonerated of the "unfounded charges" filed by persons whom Karingal previously sued for estafa.

Businessmen Robert Go and Carlos Co of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) said that while they support Mangaoang, they respect whatever customs authorities decide.

Allan Suarez, president of Philexport-Cebu, said they supported Mangaoang because she has been helping the export industry in terms of trade facilitation. But he also stressed her transfer is an internal matter.


Mangaoang refused to comment on the transfer order, except to say she wondered why Karingal is still in the service (as collector 5) when she has yet to obtain eligibility as a career executive service officer (Ceso).

Records showed that former Port of Cebu district collector Billy Bibit was removed from his post because the Civil Service Commission rejected his appointment, citing the lack of Ceso eligibility.

However, Bermejo said the government must give Karingal the chance because she will retire from the service next year.

Director Eduardo Lecciones of the Department of Agriculture 7, president of the Association of Regional Executives of Government Agencies 7, said that Mangaoang is a member of the National Council of Career Executive Service Organizations Inc. (Sun.Star Cebu)

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