MANILA – Customs broker Mark Taguba II revealed on Monday that he had given a total of P92 million worth of ‘tara’ or grease money to Customs officials and players since he started his business of facilitating shipments out the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in August 2016.
At the resumption of the Senate hearing on the P6.4 billion worth of shabu smuggling at the BOC, Taguba said the money he paid for ‘tara’ came from his clients who wanted their containers to be facilitated out of the Customs office.
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee, had called on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Office of the Ombudsman to monitor the individuals involved in the ‘tara system’ at the BOC following Taguba’s statements.
“Kung nakikinig ang BIR dapat tinitignan nila ang P92 million na binigyan mo [referring to Taguba] ng tara, lahat ng pangalan, kung d-in-eclare [If the BIR is listening, they should look into the names of recipients of the P92 million if they declared] ,” he said.
“Kung nakikinig ang Ombudsman, dapat nagsisimula nang nagbubuklat ng kanilang kaso [If the Ombudsman is listening, they should start opening their cases],” he added.
Taguba said he initially wanted to conduct his business cleanly at the BOC but the ‘tara’ system had prevented him from doing so.
“Araw lang at oras na mapigil ang container, malaki na pong abala at pera. May pera pong katumbas ng delay [On the day and hour the container is halted, it is already a huge hassle and money. There is money equivalent to the delay],” he said.
Gordon then asked Taguba for the breakdown of the recipients of the P92 million worth of ‘tara’.
He also believed the Customs broker was deceived by the players pulling the strings at the BOC because in several instances his containers were put under alert status despite his compliance with ‘tara’ payments.
“Ang tingin ko sa iyo [referring to Taguba], lahat ng nilapitan mo para mailabas mo dahil neophyte ka pa lang. Ang dami mong matrikulang binayad, niloko ka eh. Bayad ka dito dahil malakas kahit niloloko ka na,” he said.
[I think you were deceived because you were a neophyte. You spent huge amounts of money to those you approached so your shipments would be released. You paid them because they are influential even though you were being deceived.]
Also at the hearing, Taguba bared call logs, text messages and bank transactions detailing how he gave ‘tara’ to various Customs officials and players in order to facilitate his shipments out of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
He said he spent an estimated P170,000 per container which included shipping line costs, container deposit costs, duties/taxes, arrastre costs, trucking costs, and ‘tara’ at P27,200 per container.
In one his transactions last March 27 to 31 and April 1 to 3, 2017, Taguba said he spent P489,600 worth of ‘tara’ for the 18 shipments he had facilitated under the consignee EMT Trading.
Meanwhile, a total of P1.9 million was spent for ‘tara’ payments for the 70 containers under EMT Trading shipped last May 12 to 18, 2017.
EMT trading was the consignee of the shipments containing the 604 kilos of shabu found in Valenzuela last May.
Millions in bank withdrawals
Taguba also showed his bank withdrawals amounting to millions of pesos in order to provide the ‘tara’ payments Customs officials were asking.
He also presented text messages and call logs with the following tara collectors or bagmen for Customs departments and officials from March to May:
-Jojo Bacud for the Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group (AOCG) and Special Studies and Project Development Committee (SSPDC)
-Winnie for the Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group (AOCG)
-Teddy Sagaral for the CIIS District
-Gerry and Luigi for the Intelligence Group
-Jake for the Manila International Container Terminal,
-Tita Nanie, Noel, and Jack for the Internal Affairs Service
-Jemma Castillo and Jenny De Vera for the Command Center
-Ben Rubio for the Intelligence Group and MICP port collector Vincent Philip Maronilla
The text messages that Taguba disclosed supposedly indicated how Customs personnel transacted with him weekly for ‘tara’ payments.
One of the text messages had a Customs employee named Mae reminding Taguba of his ‘tara’ duties for Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) officer Joel Pinawin and the CIIS director Neil Estrella.
Pinawin at the hearing confirmed that Mae was a member of his staff, but he denied ordering her to collect grease money for him and Estrella.
Another text message showed Jojo Bacud telling Taguba he would leave the Customs office around 4:30 p.m. so he could receive the ‘tara’ payment.
Bacud, who claimed to work at the SSPDC, had been earlier identified in the previous hearings as the Customs personnel Taguba first transacted with in order to facilitate his containers’ exit.
Taguba said he usually met Bacud at fast food restaurants in Intramuros, Manila.
Meanwhile, the usual text messages of a certain Gerry had him asking Taguba if there is ‘tara’ for the week and where to meet.
A certain Jake, the collector for the MICP, regularly sent Taguba text messages on the number of containers that needed to be paid for.