Lina: slammed and reversed

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They are well-deserved beatings that Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina is getting this week. 

After being slammed by the OFW community (that means the estimated 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers plus their relatives at the average of six per OFW) for his order to impose tighter inspection of balikbayan boxes, a regional trial court Monday ordered him to stop his highly questionable act of cancelling the P650 million contract to modernize Customs operation that benefitted his company.

The day after President Aquino stopped Lina’s order for stricter control of balikbayan boxes, the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 47 released the order of Judge Paulino Gallegos for Lina also stopping his cancellation of the BOC contract with Omni Prime-Intrasoft JV.

The Court ordered Lina to proceed with the signing and not initiate any other procurement, sourcing, or negotiation to replace or upgrade the present customs systems that is the subject matter of the bid.

The case of OMI-Intrasoft JV and Lina’s E-Konek is related to the Philippine commitment as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN which promotes free movement of people and goods among the 10-member countries.

Known as ASEAN Single Window (ASW), it is crucial to the free circulation of goods in the envisioned single market, single production base integrated economic community. It establishes a central database system that tracks in real time all customs procedures nationwide. It aims to be a fully electronic, paperless and human contact-free system of recording and monitoring customs transactions.

The integrated system is also seen as the long-sought after solution to rampant smuggling in the Philippines.
The deadline for implementing the upgrade is on December 2015.

The BOC had been working on the ASW for a long time. After a seven months of going through the process of bidding, the joint venture of Omniprime Marketing Incorporated and Intrasoft International was declared winner last April 13.

It is worthy to mention that E-Konek Pilipinas where Lina has 96.48 percent stake, participated in the bidding but lost.

Ten days later, on April 23, the contract was finalized and it was scheduled to be signed by the end of the same month.

However, on April 24, Commissioner John Sevilla resigned and Lina was immediately appointed.

Two weeks after he took over from Sevilla, Lina cancelled the BOC- OMI-Intrasoft JV contract telling the Department of Budget and Management that he needed to review all the projects in the pipeline entered by the Commissioner before he assumed office and also said that the project was not needed anymore.

With the cancellation of the BOC- OMI-Intrasoft JV, customs operations had to return to its previous system wherein the biggest of the three service providers is Lina’s E-Konek Pilipinas.

The service providers collect P50 for every Customs transaction. It is estimated that annual transaction in the BOC reaches an average of 4 million. With the modernization of customs operation, Lina’s E-Konek stands to lose its P200 million a year business.

Questions were raised when Lina was appointed as successor to Sevilla, whose resignation fueled speculations of the Liberal Party’s election-fund raising.

Conflict of interest was one issue against Lina,whose business is customs brokerage.

Aquino’s mantra of “Tuwid na Daan” didn’t apply to Lina.

It’s actually Lina’s second stint at the Bureau of Customs having held that position during the Arroyo administration. He is close to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and was one of the so-called Hyatt 10- ranking officials of the Arroyo administration who resigned in the wake of the Hello Garci scandal.

Roque has also filed graft and plunder charges against Lina and his associates at BOC with the Office of the Ombudsman.