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Court summons BOC Commissioner

December 2, 2021 Paul M. Gutierrez 555 views

Over ‘non-implementation’ of P650M project

THE Manila Regional Trial Court has summoned Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to explain why his agency has allegedly not taken any step to implement a new computer system despite having been mandated by the court to do so more than six years ago.

Atty. Israelito Torreon, counsel for the joint venture of Omniprime Marketing and Intrasoft International, petitioners in the case, said Guerrero has been ordered by Hon. Judge Paulino Q. Gallegos of Branch 47, Manila RTC, to appear in court on December 6, 2021.

This, after BOC lawyers and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said Guerrero failed to appear as ordered by the court last November 26, 2021, claiming he was in South Korea at the time of the official invitation.

Torreon further bared that Judge Gallegos rejected the “request” made by the BOC and the OSG during the hearing last November 26 for Guerrero to just submit his written reply to the questions the court wants him to answer.

“We are all excited, the court included, to hear what the good commissioner will say and his answers to the questions (prepared by the court). We want to see his body language and reactions if they are true and sincere,” Torreon added.

In 2015, during the Aquino administration, the government decided to upgrade the BOC’s computer system called the ‘Asycuda,’ that was first installed in the early ‘90s, during the Ramos administration with assistance from the World Bank.

As the system deteriorated, an interim system, called the “E2M” (electronic to mobile) was adopted by the BOC but this proved inadequate, especially with the country‘s commitment to comply with the regionwide ‘ASW’ (ASEAN Single Window) thru the creation of its own ‘NSW’ (National Single Window).

The government set aside P650 million for the new BOC computer system and in the bidding that followed supervised by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), the joint venture of Omniprime Marketing and Intrasoft International won over the joint venture of E-Konek and Web Fontaine.

E-Konek is a company owned by Alberto ‘Bert’ Lina and together with Web Fontaine, they continue to maintain the E2M that is still being used by the BOC up to now.

When Lina became BOC chief in April 2015, he decided to drop the result of the bidding and insisted on continuing with the use of the E2M.

The winning bidders hauled Lina and another former customs commissioner, Guillermo Parayno, before the Ombudsman and also filed an injunction against the BOC before the Manila RTC to stop the continuity of the E2M.

Omniprime/Intrasoft also asked the court to instead direct the BOC to implement the project they won called the ‘Integrated Enhanced Customs Processing System’ (IECPS).

Torreon insisted that the E2M, which is still being used today by the BOC is also the IECPS “but with another name.”

In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the winning bidders and directed the Manila RTC to issue an order for the BOC to execute the IECPS.

The SC also upheld Judge Gallegos’ ruling where he enjoined “all the respondents (BOC and the PS-DBM) from initiating any other procurement, sourcing of funds and conducting any other procurement whether thru public bidding or negotiation to replace or upgrade the present customs systems subject matter of this bid.”

Despite repeated appeals by the BOC and the PS-DBM thru the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that lasted another three years, the Manila RTC last January 6, 2021, issued a ‘Writ of Execution’ directing the BOC to implement the IECPS.

In follow-up decision last January 29, 2021, the court also made a final entry of judgement, meaning the ruling to implement the IECPS can no longer be appealed by any party.

In the accompanying ‘subpoena duces tecum ad testificandum’ issued by the court for Guerrero’s appearance on December 6, he is expected to answer, among others:

Why the continuation of the E2M should not be stopped; why the BOC is still using the E2M and “deliberately side-stepped” the IECPS despite receiving the copy of its Writ of Execution;

Why the BOC has allocated a budget “for the support, upgrade and maintenance” of the E2M but none for the implementation of the IECPS;

Why the BOC failed to request for a budget for the IECPS in its 2022 budget and why Guerrero and other customs officials should not be cited for contempt.

Guerrero is also expected to answer why he should not be cited separately for contempt for approving the P96 million budget for E2M “tailor-fit to Web Fontaine” in violation of an earlier court order.

The court also directed the customs chief to bring copies of his 2022 budget presentation before Congress.

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