BOC retools to purge its ranks

A new measure will be introduced to eliminate graft and corruption in the Bureau of Customs, its public information office said in a weekend statement.

The project includes a systematic and modernized operation through the use of new computer system in all ports nationwide. 

The agency’s public information office announced this after a group of brokers appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to act against two Customs personnel who, they claimed, engaged in the so-called “tara” (grease money) payoff system.

The brokers are complaining, saying in Customs there still existed a syndicate within its offices that had willfully disregarded the directive of the Chief Executive.

The two Customs personnel—assigned at the Office of the Commissioner and Import Assessment Service—are now the subjects of complaint presented by the brokers. 

The brokers told Malacañang about the wrongdoings of the two personnel who, they said, were in cahoots with Port of Manila and Manila International Container Port employees, who forcibly asked for grease money.

According to them, the IAS employee had imposed a new tara system that entailed them to pay P3,000 per container of general merchandise.

The amount, the brokers explained, guaranteed that any importer would be able to pay ''duties and taxes'' that reached only from P180,000 to P200,000 each container instead of P250,000 to P300,000 if they refused.

On the other hand, importers of vehicles were asked to pay from P50,000 to P100,000 per unit and those who would refuse would be asked to pay the maximum amount in duties and taxes.

The brokers also revealed that the two personnel were also in cahoots with a number of Customs appraisers and examiners who were allegedly afraid to disobey them for fear they would be forcibly terminated or suspended from their duties and functions.

Among the computer systems that will be formally implemented this month are the Goods Declaration Verification System, National Value Verification System, Portal (Ticketing System), Document Tracking System, and the Customs Dashboard.

The systems are part of the bureau’s project designed to improve transparency and reduce opportunities for corruption and provide seamless trade services with lesser human intervention. 

The project is also in line with the directive of President Duterte to get rid of all anomalous transactions in government, most especially the corrupt collection agencies.

Just recently, authorities arrested a 19-year-old man who they described as Customs “hao-shiao” or bogus employee allegedly involved in the “tara” collection.

The bureau claimed that Xavier Daniele Gabriel, a resident of Sampaloc, Manila, was wearing an expired dilapidated Customs identification card valid until March 1, 2019 when he was arrested.

Gabriel was arrested after members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, currently detailed with the bureau’s Intelligence Group, found large amount of cash, deposit slips, and four passbooks inside his envelope—all in the name of Renly Tiñana, alias “Empoy,” of the Port of Manila.

Investigation showed that Gabriel acted as the courier of Tiñana in delivering cash for bank deposits.

Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier made an expose on the widespread corruption at the bureau and said he was leaving it up to Customs chief Ray Guerrero to investigate the matter, adding he believed the retired military general was untainted by corruption.

The Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue are said to be among the most corrupt collection agencies in the country and have been involved in cases of embezzlement and extortion.

Some commissioners tried to get rid of the illegal practice but failed.

Observers said “Mere replacement of people involved, while necessary and significant, will not be the ultimate solution. A change in the system and the environment needs to happen, including a paradigm shift in how we view the role of Customs, not just in revenue collection and border security, but in trade facilitation as well.”

“Commissioners come and ago, but the 'kalakaran' remains the same as it has always been. You remove one corrupt individual and yet the same environment prevails,” they added.

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Topics: Bureau of Customs , Rodrigo Duterte , Office of the Commissioner and Import Assessment Service , Manila International Container Port
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