MANILA – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Thursday said the PCG officer disarmed and arrested by Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso was on duty guarding a shipment of African swine fever (ASF)-infested meat products from China.
In a statement, PCG spokesperson, Capt. Armando Balilo said Seaman Second Class Jercel dela Cruz, assigned at the Harbor Center, North Harbor, in Port Area, Manila, was part of the K-9 unit of the PCG’s Task Force Aduana which was tasked to oversee two shipments containing about 17,000 kilograms of pork celery dumplings from Guangzhou, China.
The shipment consigned to Dynamic M Int’l Trading in Barangay San Antonio, Parañaque City, Balilo said, has been declared positive of the ASF virus by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and arrived at the port area during the second week of December last year.
Balilo added that dela Cruz was part of a covert operation on anti-corruption and anti-smuggling initiatives in partnership with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“Dela Cruz’s official duty at the Harbor Center was covered by said (memorandum of agreement), as well as mission order, letter of authority, and implementation plan,” Balilo said.
A live video posted on Domagoso’s Facebook page showed the mayor cursing a PCG officer, disarming and ordering his arrest during an operation against the “biggest shipment” of illegal meat products positive of ASF on Wednesday.
“Arestuhin niyo yan. Ano ginagawa mo dito? Disarmahan niyo nga muna ‘yan. I-report niyo nga ito sa coast guard. Wala naman dagat dito ah (Arrest him. What are you doing here? Disarm him first. Report him to the Coast Guard. There’s no sea here),” Domagoso said in the video.
Following Wednesday’s events, PCG communications officer Joy Dianne Gumatay said dela Cruz has been pulled out of active duty and assigned an office job after his identity has been compromised.
“Since na-compromise na yung identity and safety niya, i-recommend ng Task Force Aduana na i-relieve na muna si dela Cruz sa post niya. Balik office operation muna siya (Since his identity and safety was compromised, Task Force Aduana recommended that dela Cruz be relieved of his post. He’ll go back to office operation for now),” Gumatay said.
When asked whether the PCG will file a case against Domagoso, Balilo said the actions of the local chief executive were understandable and were “proactive efforts” against smuggling and corruption in Manila.
“At the end of the day, the PCG chooses to look at the bigger picture – na intindihin na lang ang nangyari at pairalin ang respeto sa ating local chief executive (let’s just understand what happened and show respect to our local chief executive),” Balilo said.
Meanwhile, Balilo said the shipment has been sent to Porac, Pampanga since Wednesday night and was transferred to Mexico, Pampanga on Thursday morning pending destruction by the BAI.
Dela Cruz and the rest of Task Force Aduana, he said, were responsible for ensuring all containers have proper documents or clearance before entering or exiting a port area.
“They are also tasked to augment the Port Inspection Division personnel of BOC in under-guarding containers until delivery to its destinations,” Balilo said.
He added that PCG personnel also assist in serving letters of authority (LOA) and warrants of seizure and detention (WSD), as well as to ensure that all items covered by said LOAs and WSDs are in custody and at the disposal of the BOC—until its legal release. Raymond Carl Dela Cruz /PNA – northboundasia.com