CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/3 June) – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) clarified that there is nothing irregular in the withdrawal of the smuggling case against suspect Lynard Allan Bigcas from the Bukidnon Prosecutors Office.
Atty. Anju Nereo Castigador, BOC director in Region 10, explained that the order from BOC Commissioner Angelito Alvarez to withdraw the cases filed against Bigcas and five others was based on a memorandum of agreement between the BOC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that smuggling cases be filed directly with the DOJ in Manila.
“Although we have withdrawn the case from the Bukidnon Prosecutor’s Office, the case was filed Thursday (June 2, 2011) in DOJ in Manila,” the customs official said.
But City Prosecutor Fidel Macauyag did not agree with the request of the BOC to withdraw the cases from their jurisdiction and insisted that they will conduct preliminary investigation.
Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (CDO, 2nd Dist.), meanwhile, said that he will ask Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to retain the cases with the local prosecutors as he believes they have jurisdiction over the smuggling cases.
“I will ask Secretary De Lima to give the case to the local prosecutors because the crime was done here and the evidences are here,” said Rodriguez, a former law dean of San Sebastian College in Manila.
Castigador said that although the crime was discovered here, it does not necessarily mean that the smuggling happened in the ports in Region 10. “We believe that the entry of the smuggled vehicles by Bigcas happened in other ports outside Region 10,” Castigador told MindaNews.
Bigcas’s alleged smuggling operations were uncovered when authorities raided his home in Talakag, Bukidnon and in Barangay Kauswagan here last May 3 upon tips from the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Charged with Bigcas in DOJ Manila Thursday were Noeh Alcala, Gilbert Omolon, Luke Alcala, Lyann Bigcas and Joshua Bigcas, all coming from Talakag, Bukidnon.
Among the vehicles seized by authorities was an $80,000 Martin Brothers custom made motorcycle which was stolen four years ago from Hollywood writer Skip Woods (of X Men and Swordfish fame). The FBI confirmed that at least seven of the more than 20 luxury cars and racing motorcycles seized from Bigcas were stolen in the US.
The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee will resume its session on the Bigcas smuggling case on Monday.
Among issues that will be raised in the Congress investigation, according to Rodriguez, will be the role of the Land Transportation Offices (LTO) in Tubod, Lanao del Norte; Molave, Zamboanga del Sur; and Iligan City where the alleged smuggled Bigcas vehicles were registered.
Rodriguez said that he will also look into the role of the local police after two of its members were found to be acting as dealers for Bigcas’s motorcycles. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews)