Ombudsman suspends 7 BOC officials involved in Melamine-laced milk scandal

I remember this melamine-laced milk scandal in 2008 .

Melamine is a chemical used in manufacturing plastic products. China recorded several infant deaths after several companies had used the chemical to bolster the protein levels in their milk.

It is just outrageous that our government officials were involved in this. Lane Afable, the Secretary-General for the Center for Anti-Graft and Corruption Prevention, Inc. sent me this exclusive story on the suspension order of seven Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials involved in the Melamine-laced scandal .


THE Office of the Ombudsman yesterday ordered the suspension of seven officials of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) who were tagged involved in the controversial melamine-laced milk scandal in August 2010.

The seven BOC officials are: Akmad M. Noor, custom operations officer V designated as principal appraiser; Dante F. Crisostomo, customs operations officer V designated as customs examiner; Emmanuel F. Reyes, former customs operations officer V designated as principal appraiser and four personnel of the Entry Processing Unit (EPU) namely:  Paulita L. dela Cruz, customs operations officer lll, designated as acting assistant chief; Taha H. Cali, assistant customs operations officer, designated as document processor; Felicisimo M. Javier, clerk lll, designated as acting document processor; and Ruben R. De Rama, customs operations officer lll designated as acting document supervisor.

Over-all Deputy Ombudsman (ODO) Orlando C. Casimiro, in his order, meted both principal appraiser Noor and customs examiner Crisostomo with a 1-year suspension without pay, while the four EPU officials namely del Cruz, Cali, Javier and De Rama were ordered suspended for two months without pay.

The penalties of the seven BOC officials were reduced by the Ombudsman on humanitarian consideration as prayed in their motion for reconsideration, but their request to dismiss the case was denied.

A dispositive portion of the decision which was written by ODO Casimiro that states:

“Wherefore, the joint motions for reconsideration are denied. For humanitarian considerations, however the penalty of THREE (3) MONTHS suspension from office without pay imposed on respondents Ruben R. De Rama, Paulita L. Dela Cruz, Taha H. Cali, and Felicisimo M. Javier, is hereby reduced to suspension from office for TWO (2) MONTHS without pay.

         On the other hand, in view of the reduction of penalty imposed on Akmad M. Noor and Dante F. Crisostomo, instead of dismissal from the service, they are hereby SUSPENDED from office for ONE (1) YEAR without pay.”

         Emmanuel F. Reyes, former customs operations officer V designated as principal appraiser was not sanctioned anymore in aforesaid ruling since he already retired from the government service last year.

ODO Casimiro cited that the a decision of the Office of the Ombudsman in administrative cases shall be executed as a matter of course as provided in Section 7, Rule lll of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman.

“The decision of the Ombudsman is immediately executory pending appeal and may not be stayed by the filing of the appeal. Moreover, Memorandum Circular No. 1 series 2006, issued by the office states that: “The filing of a motion for reconsideration or a petition for review before the Office of the Ombudsman does not operate to stay the immediate implementation of the foregoing Ombudsman decisions, orders, or resolutions,” he further said.

The seven BOC officials were reported found guilty as charged for grave misconduct and simple neglect of duty in relation to the graft case filed against them by the Field Investigation Office (FIO) of the anti-graft body last year but were meted with reduced penalties for humanitarian considerations.

Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rafael B. Biazon, in his effort to enforce the anti-graft body’s ruling as part of his reform agenda — upon receipt — immediately directed POM Collector Rogel Gatchalian to strictly implement the Ombudsman order and ensure that affected parties shall render faithful compliance to it.

Collector Gatchalian was given by Commissioner Biazon three days to submit proof of service concerned parties from receipt of the order.

Biazon furnished copies of his order to BOC Legal Service, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales thru BOC Resident Ombudsman Paterno B. Alarcon, Jr.

The seven BOC officials were charged by the FIO of the anti-graft body in August 2010 for gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, inefficiency, incompetence, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service due to their failure to verify the correspondence of the Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) with the Sales Invoice and Bill of Lading for Jolly Cow High Calcium Low Fat Milk that was later found in the inspection of the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) to have traces of melamine, a substance hazardous to human health, prior to its release from BOC.

Melamine-contaminated milk, according to health experts, has been linked to the deaths of four children and the illnesses of thousands more in China, prompting a worldwide recall of the China-made milk products.

China, embarrassed by the incident, arrested two businessmen held responsible for the melamine scam and imposed death penalty on them.

The FIO similarly charged the officers of importing firm, Flyace Corporation, of the melamine-laced milk Jolly Cow Slender High Calcium Low Fat Milk who were identified as Ederlinda Cochanco, Ellen Cochanco, Lucio Cochanco Jr., Elliz Cochangco, and Larry Cochangco, directors, and Impex PRO Logistics Corp. broker Neil Ruzol and its representative Ulysses Asuncion.

So far, the anti-graft body has to yet issue the judgment of their case as private individuals involved in the alleged anomaly.

FIO investigators cited that accused BOC official failed their duties to establish the “accuracy, completeness and authenticity of the import entries for Jolly Cow (Slender) High Calcium Low Fat Milk as required on the import procedures of the BOC.

Having failed to do so, FIO probers claimed, the accused BOC officers “have allowed the entry into the country of Jolly Cow Slender High Calcium Low Fat Milk, without requiring the CPR.”

FIO agents claimed that BOC records showed that importer Flyace Corporation imported Jolly Cow Slender High Calcium Low Fat Milk without the required CPR from the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD).

They cited that the absence of CPR directly violated Administrative Order No. 37 and Bureau Circular 2007-06 of the Department of Health requires “any person desiring to import or export food and food products shall file an application for registration for each and every food items to be imported or exported.”

The anti-graft probers also found out that Flyace Corp. presented a CPR for Jolly Cow Pure Fresh Milk, a product with a label different from Jolly Cow Slender High Calcium Low Fat Milk.

Moreover, FOI probers cited that the Import Entry and Internal Revenue Declaration described the goods as Jolly UHT Pure Milk, not Jolly Cow Slender High Calcium Low Fat Milk.

A BFAD inventory conducted on October 8, 2008 also showed that 27,912 packs of Jolly Cow Slender High Calcium Low Fat Milk with traces of melamine have been distributed widespread to the market.

So far, the public is in belief that justice is served on the issue with the Ombudsman action against the aforecited erring BOC officials.