Are we punishing the good guys?

Humans are wired to maximize everything by default. It means that when we encounter something that works, we tend to go all-out in that direction to get as much value as possible from the working model.

We repeat the successful formula and pull the level that allows us to win in life’s many challenges.

Government leaders and corporate managers have the same tendency. If there’s an outstanding performer in the team, the basic instinct is to give the hotshot more work for a job well done.

But that was not the case for the six Bureau of Customs employees at the Port of Subic, who were relieved and temporarily transferred to the Office of the Commissioner, while an investigation into alleged sugar smuggling activities at the port is ongoing.

Ordered relieved pending investigation were Maritess Theodossis Martin, district collector; Maita Sering Acevedo, deputy collector, assessment; Giovanni Ferdinand Aguillon Leynes, deputy collector, operations; Belinda Fernando Lim, chief, assessment division; Vincent Mark Solamin Malasmas, ESS district commander; and Justin Roman Silvoza Geli, CIIS supervisor.

The six were punished for the interception of cargo vessel MV Bangpakaew from Thailand on 18 August 2022 in Subic by the BoC, which was carrying at least 140,000 bags, or 7,021 metric tons, of imported sugar.


Customs alleged the import permit used by the consignee, identified as Oro-Agritrade Inc., was “recycled” or fake.

Records also indicated the shipment came from Thai exporter Ruamkamlarp Export Co. Ltd., while a certain Malou Buerano acted as the broker.

The twist in the story was the testimony of the Sugar Regulatory Administration that the questioned shipment was covered by a “special permit to discharge” and other administrative documents from the BoC.

A check at the SRA website also indicated the shipment had verified clearance issued by Rondell Manjarres, who is identified as an officer-in-charge of the SRA’s licensing and monitoring division.

The SRA also sent a certification letter to the BoC that reads: “This is to certify that the imported cane refined sugar from Thailand shipped by Ruamkamlarp Export Co. Ltd., and consigned to Oro-Agritrade Inc. for the account of ARC Refreshment Corporation…. onboard M/V Bangpakaew…. has been cleared by this Office as ‘C’ or reserve sugar as per Sugar Order 3, Series of 2021-2022.”


Ironically, on 10 August, Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz named Martin as one of the district collectors to be retained in their posts for “good performance.”

“For the district collectors, my policy is if they are performing, they will remain in their positions. If they do not meet their (collection) target, then they will be replaced with someone who can do the job better,” he said.

Martin’s Port of Subic exceeded its revenue collection target by P1.646 billion from P5.428 billion in July only. Indeed, the Port of Subic is one of the district collection ports expected to exceed tax collection goals in 2022.

In June, the Port of Subic surpassed its monthly collection by over 50 percent, with a total of P5,208,110,657.38, which is 54 percent or P1,1827,161,657.38 higher than its target collection of P3,380,949,000.

In May, Martin exceeded her collection target by 12.93 percent representing P441 million, after posting an actual collection of P3,851,945,030.60 against the P3,410,903,000 monthly target.

Guess it doesn’t pay to be an outperformer and fulfill your job’s mandate.

This sugar mess indeed leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

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