June 19, 2018, 11:34 pm
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3 gov’t lawyers suspended: Prosecutors linked to NAIA jewelry smuggling

THREE government prosecutors have been suspended by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for allowing the release of persons who tried to smuggle in some P6 million worth of jewelry at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport early this month despite what he said is “evidence at hand.”

Placed under a 60-day preventive suspension order were Benjamin Lonto, officer-in-charge of the Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office; State Prosecutor Florencio dela Cruz Jr., inquest prosecutor; and Associate Prosecution Attorney Clementine Villanueva.

The three were directed to submit their answers to the investigation on charges of neglect of duty, gross incompetence and inefficiency, within 10 days from receipt of the order which was issued by Guevarra on May 21. 

Guevarra also directed Deputy Prosecutor Dolores Pulgo-Rillera to take the place of Lonto as OIC of the Pasay City Prosecutors Office.

The suspension of the three prosecutors stemmed from their decision to release NAIA Customs Operation Officer V Lomonto Macabando and suspected smugglers spouses Abraham and Bang-sa Mimbalawang who were caught, and charged before the prosecutor’s office for allegedly trying to smuggle in 1.9 kilos of jewelry.

The Mimbalawangs arrived at the NAIA on May 5 from Dubai.

Guevarra said the Mimbalawangs admitted to authorities they own a bag containing the undeclared jewelry, which was shown on closed-circuit TV camera being handed to Macabando.

Macabando and the Mimbalawang couple were arrested and brought to the Pasay city prosecutor’s office for inquest proceedings, where they were ordered released.

The alleged smuggling of jewelry at NAIA earlier led to the relief of justice undersecretary Moslemen Macarambon who has been ordered by President Duterte to resign, although denied any involvement in any illegal activities. 

Malacañang has said that based on investigations conducted by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, Macarambon had been intervening on behalf of suspected smugglers of gold and other precious jewelry.

Macarambon has said he only asked the Bureau of Customs to re-compute taxes to be paid by his in-laws for pieces of jewelry they bought in, in December last year.

Malacañang announced President Duterte’s order for Macarambon to resign, or be fired, last May 15. 

Duterte has repeatedly warned officials not to get involved in corruption and has fired several of his appointees.  
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