A Bohol unit of the Philippine Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) is under fire after it conducted a two-day operations against local businessmen resulting in arbitrary interceptions of goods and commodities getting out of the city insular wharf.
Crying foul against the unnecessary searches were the Provincial Development Council and the Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry which took the cudgels for the local businessmen who felt harassed by the PASG-Bohol.
But Rommel Manhilot a.k.a as Rommel Montano, an actor and younger brother of gubernatorial candidate Cesar Montano who claims to be the director of the local PASG unit, said that there was nothing irregular in their operations. The elder Montano is also an actor and a multi-awarded at that.
On December 9-10, Montano's group made up of 10 men, mounted a checkpoint at the city pier to inspect the import documents of Bohol-bound cargoes.
Just like Montano, its team leader is another Baclayon native identified as Greg Quinal.
According to Montano, if there's anybody who's more careful of not doing any unlawful act, it would be him knowing the impact it will bear on the candidacy of his brother.
However, the Baclayon native said he cannot reneged on his mandate to implement the intent of Executive Order No. 624. The executive fiat created the PASG to apprehend, seize, investigate and prosecute acts involving smuggling, unlawful importation and other similar violations, and providing measures to curtail smuggling and expedite proceedings.
Montano said contrary to some allegations, his team was maintaining utmost courtesy in making inspections of import documents that passed through the city pier.
The PASG official said his attention was called by Malacanang that Bohol ports including the City Tagbilaran was used as transshipment point of illegal drugs and firearms.
Asked what was the reaction of his brother-politician, after his name was graded in the PASG controversy Montano quoted his sibling as saying "for as long as you're doing your job, it's okay with me".
The PDC met on December 10 at the Bohol Tropics Resort Club and presided over by Gov. Erico Aumentado to tackle the PASG issue.
After getting hold of the BCCI complaint, the PDC swung into action to inquire into the legality of the PASG operations.
The two bodies also questioned Montano's authority for directing such arbitrary interception, and furthermore, vehemently protested his questionable procedures, which are inimical to the economic development of the entire province;
The so-called arbitrary interception was made on delivery trucks and other vehicles carrying Christmas goods and other commodities in the port of Tagbilaran city and in other ports throughout the province of Bohol by the PASG unit.
The controversial PASG activities came at a time when Trade Sec. Peter Favila was in town. Without missing a beat, the two bodies appealed to the trade secretary for expeditious action.
The PDC and BCCI also sought the assistance of Department of Finance Secretary Gary Teves, Bureau of Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, and PASG head, Undersecretary Antonio Villar Jr. to look into their complaints in relation to the activities of the anti-smuggling group in Bohol.i
Asked if Montano was a duly authorized PASG agent, he said he has a mission order to authenticate his appointment as the body's director for Bohol.
Montano showed up to the Post offices yesterday after he was tipped off that his team's conduct at the city pier was subjected to a thorough inquiry by the city's business sector.
According to the PDC resolutio,n this unannounced and highly questionable interception has resulted to the interruption of the normal flow of delivery of basic commodities to the consuming public, even locally-produced goods such as sugar and fertilizers, thereby causing inconvenience to a great number of businesses, especially large distributors such as the Alturas Group of Companies, Bohol Quality Corporation, and AH Shoppers Mart, and adversely affecting economic activity during the Christmas Season,
PDC also noted that it's the first time that the City of Tagbilaran and Province of Bohol have experienced the "highly questionable act of interception" that caused anxiety and confusion in the business community and among customers, aside from the negative impression regarding affected businessmen.
The businessmen pointed out during the meeting that they were transporting locally-produced goods which could have no other sources but the farms and local manufacturers.
BCCI members clarified that they fully support the objectives and goals of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Executive Order 624 that created PASG issued on May 21, 2007.
The local businessmen said the operation of Montano's team can be tantamount to harassment.
"This act of interception may even be branded as a form of harassment, since the General Manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in Bohol, Manuel Boholano, has explicitly declared in a meeting with the BCCI that interception of business operations is proper and permissible only when there is an intelligence report of anomaly," the resolution stated.The businessmen further complained that Montano's intercepting team even asked for official receipts of the goods when it has long been a business practice to keep official receipts in the company office for security and safekeeping, and the company driver and staff only carry with them the Bill of Lading for the commodities.