Duterte suspends officials allegedly involved in jewelry smuggling pending probe
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the suspension of several government officials for their alleged conspiracy to smuggle millions worth of jewelry into the country.
In a media interview on Wednesday, Duterte identified the officials from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Bureau of Customs, and Department of Justice, including the Prosecutors' Office, who were allegedly involved in the smuggling activities.
“Those people that are under investigation are (Atty.) Ambrosi Basman; Atty. Rohani Basman; Amisa Lumuntod; Amilquir Macabando, ex-mayor of Marawi City; Atty. Samina Sampaco Macabando-Usman, DoJ Prosecutor; OIC Pasay City Prosecutor Atty. Benjamin B. Lanto, relative of Mr. Lumuntod Macabando; Inquest Prosecutor Clemente Villanueva; Assistant Prosecutor Florenzo dela Cruz; NAIA District Collector Ramon Anquilan; and DoJ Assistant Secretary Moslemen Macarambon, (Sr.),” Duterte said.
He also included in the list NAIA- Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service Director Adzhar Albani; CIIS Head Butch Ledesma, plantilla holder assigned at NAIA; and Customs Operation Officer Lumuntod Macabando.
"They are all suspended while pending investigation," he said.
He said it would be up to the Office of the Ombudsman to file charges against those officials.
Meanwhile, Presidential Anti-corruption Commissioner Greco Belgica, in a press briefing in Malacanang on Thursday, detailed how the alleged smuggling syndicate was unmasked.
He said the group of these officials who were apprehended at the NAIA Terminal 3 on May 5 was only one of the eight syndicate groups doing the same modus.
"So we have reason to believe that they are one organized group doing this, connected to many different offices and taking advantage of the complex systems and using government officers. And it’s very clear that their syndicate reached the Prosecutor’s Office," he said.
He said there is a possibility that the smuggled pieces of jewelry are being exchanged for illegal drugs.
"The system is they have legal business fronts, they also have smuggling activities, and also drug-related activities, like that. These people that we have caught were not smuggling syndicate. It seems to be the reports and we have reason to believe that they seem to be part of an organized syndicate doing this for something bigger," Belgica added.
He said the pieces of smuggled jewelry came from Bangkok and Thailand.
The President recently ordered Macarambon and Assistant Secretary Tingagun Umpa of the Public Works and Highways department to resign or be fired.
Macarambon, who already quit from the post, allegedly intervened for gold and jewelry smugglers at the NAIA, while Umpa allegedly asked for commissions in the projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Ella Dionisio/DMS