PACC: NAIA gold smugglers funding terrorists, rebels

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THE Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) is looking into the possible funding of terrorist groups or insurgents by smugglers operating inside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said Thursday eight groups of smugglers are under investigation for raising an average P10 billion from smuggling.

Belgica told reporters in a press conference held in Manila that they received “A1” information claiming that a couple from Marawi City was allegedly involved in raising money to finance the activities of the terrorist groups in the country. However, the information has yet to be confirmed.

“The fund-raising activity was for illegal activities. They are part of a group that raises funds for certain groups. They could be terrorists, they could be insurgents,” Belgica said.

Belgica said that aside from the syndicate that aided spouses Abraham Mimbalawang and Bang-sa Mimbalawang in smuggling several pieces of jewelry, there were seven other syndicates who were operating separately but were using the same “sundo” modus.

The modus happens when the smugglers are met by a cohort at the airport who gets the contraband from them and facilitates their exit from the airport without having to pass through Customs examination.

They also learned that since year 2014, the couple traveled 133 times during the last four years, frequenting Dubai and Bangkok, Thailand.

The Mimbalawang couple, together with Bureau of Customs (BOC) Flight Supervisor Lomodot Macabando were apprehended last May 5 at NAIA Terminal 3 for smuggling 1.9 kilograms of assorted pieces of gold jewelry worth more or less P6 million, according to Belgica.

Belgica said the Mimbalawang couple might have been engaged in illegal activities but this was the first time that they were apprehended.

The PACC official said that the spouses were the parents of the daughter-in-law of resigned Justice Assistant Secretary Moslemen Macarambon Sr.

Macarambon was tagged with the spouses’ alleged smuggling activities when he was accused by Malacanang of “regularly been intervening on behalf of suspected smugglers of gold and other precious jewelry at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.”

Macarambon reportedly denied the allegations saying that he intervened and explained that the couple was relatives of his daughter-in-law who were held by the BOC.

Macarambon said his daughter-in-law and her family were held by the BOC in December 2017 and were told to pay P6 million in taxes for the jewelry with an assessed value of P7 million.

Macarambon said he sought a request to recompute until the amount was reduced to P1.38 million.

PACC also said there were reportedly officials or employees from the four different agencies namely the Department of Justice, BOC, Department of Finance, and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) who are allegedly part of the “sundo” modus.

PACC Commissioner Manuelito Luna said these acts may be deemed as economic sabotage because they are depriving the government of collecting the correct duties and taxes.

Luna refused to give details of the fact-finding probe except to say it involves from P10 billion to P20 billion in public funds, and covers three government projects.

“A very big anomaly, so far the biggest and multi-billion anomaly which transpired not in this administration but during the Aquino administration. Tatlong klaseng projects ito, pinondohan ng (There are three kinds of projects which were funded) billions of pesos but there are ‘red flags,’” Luna told reporters at a news conference Thursday.

“Not covered by GAA (General Appropriations Act)… sad to say, maraming realignment [of public funds] sa previous [Aquino] administration,” he said.

The PACC was created by President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2017 through Executive Order No. 43 “to directly assist the President in investigating and/or hearing administrative cases primarily involving graft and corruption against all presidential appointees.”

It has the power, on complaint or motu proprio, and concurrently with the Office of the Ombudsman, to hear, investigate, receive, gather, and evaluate evidence, intelligence reports, and information in administrative cases against all presidential appointees under the executive department and any of its agencies or instrumentalities.

The PACC may, upon instruction of the president, conduct lifestyle checks and fact-finding inquiries over above-mentioned public officials and officers.

The commission is chaired by Dante Jimenez, who used to lead the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

p: wjg

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