PALACE HEARS OROPHIL
By Ligaya Caban
To get first-hand information on charges, Orophil Shipping was received by Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte in Malacanang last July 18th, together with Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero of Customs (BoC) and Chairman Dante La Jimenez, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).
The firm came in full force led by Board Chairman Juan N. Orola, Jr., Pres. & CEO Tomas N. Orola, VP Elizabeth Orola-Salabas, with Operations Manager Gilray Romeo Torres and Atty. Elnora Abaygar, legal counsel.
The Orola family controls Orophil Shipping which Customs lodged action against for alleged large-scale smuggling of 641 containers from the Port of Manila between April to August, 2018.
Customs initiated an investigation April 10, 2019, immediately filed charges based on papers Orophil considers frivolous:
- Orophil is ISO-accredited and exclusively in manning and crewing, never in importation, much more large-scale containerized importations.
- Container releases were all done at the informal entry window, clearly irregular.
- Orophil is wrongly marked “Consignee” on the Letters of Guarantee (LOGs) allegedly issued by itself:
- Letterheads used on the LOGs are banner heads, just downloaded, perhaps, from the Orophil website.
- The LOGs were signed by an Elideo Montances as Operations Manager, totally unknown and unattached to Orophil since its operations in 1980.
- Customs investigators accepted the statements of a Cyril I. Go that he is the Orophil Processor when, like Montances, this person is also totally unknown and unattached to Orophil ever.
- All purported documents (bills of lading, arrival notices, etc) have never passed Orophil’s communication system.
- Orophil has never known nor dealt with MMD Logistics (MMD), the alleged freight forwarder; neither any logistics firm involved in smuggling.
The Customs charge splashed all over mass media and digital postings severely damaged the reputation of the established firm and a very respected family of Bacolod City, particularly:
- Atty. Juan N. Orola, Jr – Current City Administrator, Member of the 11th Congress, Tourism Attache in Japan, South Korea and USA, Ang Banwahananon Awardee by the City of Bacolod
- Engr. Tomas N. Orola – President and CEO, Orophil Shipping for 30 years, Director and Auditor of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC)
- Dr. Elizabeth Orola-Salabas - Commodore, Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), President of VMA Global College and Training Center, Ang Banwahananon Awardee in her own right.
- Their parents, Johnny and Remedios, were also highly esteemed; recipients of civic awards like special Father, Mother and Angkan honours.
The Orolas were surprised by the presidential invitation; thus, rushed to Malacanang right after their own morning press conference at Max-Ermita, in Manila.
The President assured the Orolas of fair treatment, given Customs is suspect to corrupt practices. Orophil may even be an example of the private sector fighting back against public employees mulcting the system, a sensitive issue for Duterte.
Atty. Orola was quoted, “We had an open and positive meeting” with the President and we’re told they made the right decision to bring their predicament directly to him.
Duterte urged to be furnished with Orophil’s written answers and promised to designate a Palace lawyer to monitor pleadings and proceedings of the case.