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 Lina junked BOC modernization contract to favor own company - Harry Roque

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PostSubject: Lina junked BOC modernization contract to favor own company - Harry Roque   August 26th 2015, 12:04 pm

The online news portal of TV5
MANILA – Lawyer Harry Roque on Monday accused Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina of engaging in acts marked by conflict of interest after canceling a legitimate contract on the Bureau of Customs's (BOC) modernization program to favor his own company that had lost in the bidding process.

At a press conference, Atty. Roque said Commissioner Lina junked the P650-million contract already won by the joint venture of Omniprime Marketing Inc., and Intrasoft International Inc. to set up a modern integrated customs data processing system in the country, just two weeks after he assumed office.

"Lina's decision to unceremoniously cancel the contract reeks of the foul smell of a clear conflict of interest," Roque said.

Roque pointed out that one of the five losing bidders in the project, E-Konek, is a company where Lina has a 96.48 percent stake. Roque is the counsel for the joint-venture that had been awarded the winning bid.

"Lina canceled the contract apparently to maintain the status quo, in order for his company to continue doing business with Customs. Masyadong lutong Macao ito (This is much too obvious)," Roque said.

Roque said that, in canceling the contract, Lina plans to upgrade the current ASYCUDA system being used by BOC, run by the company Webb Fontaine, which has a beneficial business relationship with E-Konek.

"Even the World Bank has said that the present system cannot be used to integrate with the ASEAN Single Window system," Roque said.

Roque said that, on April 13, 2015, the joint venture won the seven-month public bidding process. The contract was finalized 10 days later, on April 23, and 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 had undergone two biddings in the span of nearly a decade.

Then on May 6, Lina issued a notice to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) canceling the contract.

Webb Fontaine itself also lost out to Roque's client in the public bidding for the national integrated enhanced customs processing system.

E-Konek is run by Lina's business partner, Guillermo Parayno Jr., who also happens to be a former customs commissioner.

The integrated system, along with a national single window, is seen as the long sought after solution to rampant smuggling in the country. It establishes a central database system that tracks in real time all customs procedures nationwide. It aims to be fully electronic, paperless and a human contact-free system of recording and monitoring customs transactions, Roque said.

Meanwhile, the national single window (NSW) is supposed to consolidate relevant services from all government agencies involved in customs procedures using international standards.

ASEAN member-states have agreed on a common window system to fast track cargo clearance as they move toward regional integration. The system complies with the international open communication standard while ensuring that each of the member-countries can exchange data securely and reliably with any trading partners that use the same international open standards.

Its hallmarks are a simpler and faster processing time and a more transparent way of doing business.

Said to be already 10 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 the year, as the Philippines has volunteered to do a pilot for integration project.

However, Roque said that Lina's decision to cancel the contract for the two consolidated projects would delay the country's integration into the single ASEAN Market.

"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," Roque explained.

Roque said that, in his May 6 notice, Lina initiated a comprehensive review of all the BOC projects already in the pipeline.

According to him, because of the immense scale of the NSW Project, it just had to be abandoned.

Roque said that, acting on his directives, the very next day, DBM Executive Director Jose Tomas Syquia sent the winning bidder a notice of cancellation.

"Subsequently, Lina announced that he intended to re-bid the project, with an eye on the ASYCUDA system, which he claimed, has won the endorsement of the World Bank," Roque said.

Roque said that the cancellation of the contract had no justifiable or legal basis.

"As a matter of fact, Commissioner Lina's supposed need to merely review the project constituted a most unjust and unreasonable ground for abandoning the project," Roque said.

"The cancellation constituted a capricious and arbitrary basis, and amounted to an outright grave abuse of discretion. If at all, the reason invoked for the cancellation of the project proved that there was the utter absence of a pre-existing factual and legal bases to abruptly cancel the contract," Roque added.

He also warned against any attempt to use the backdoor so that a losing bidder can still hijack the process for its won ends. "We will not hesitate to file the necessary criminal, civil and administrative cases against anyone – including Lina himself – found to be violating our client's constitutionally-vested property rights."

With this, Roque said that his client is set to file plunder charges against Lina for conflict of interest and grave abuse of discretion for canceling the contract before the proper courts.

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Lina junked BOC modernization contract to favor own company - Harry Roque
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