Several field officers of the Bureau of Customs, including a district collector, are in hot water for alleged complicity in what appeared to be systemic technical smuggling resulting in huge revenue losses for the government, sources said.
An investigation committee created by Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero completed its task and recommended the filing of criminal and administrative cases against the erring officials. A copy of the panel’s final report is now with Guerrero for appropriate action.
Guerrero formed the committee earlier this year amid observations about last year’s suspicious rise in the incidence of cargoes being released by the Port of Manila through the so-called “ship spares” scheme.
BoC insiders said the probers found substantial evidence of the irregularities tantamount to technical smuggling as repeatedly committed by certain unscrupulous officials in cahoots with outsiders, specifically owners of a private brokerage firm and an importing company.
Sources said the probe team identified members of an alleged alliance that worked on the illegal release of some 650 crates without paying tariffs and duties.
A BOC district collector reportedly has a lot of explaining to do as the containers in question were illegally released when the official was serving as the chief of POM.
The district collector could potentially be held liable for neglect of duty through the command responsibility doctrine, a customs expert said. “Nothing, particularly shipments, is supposed to move without the knowledge and go-signal of the district collector,” the expert said.
The in-house inquiry conducted from March to April this year was triggered by last year’s unusual increase in the number of shipments manually released allegedly ordered by certain officials of the POM’s informal entry division using the “ship spares in transit” scheme which, under existing Customs rules and procedures was exempted from payment of duties and taxes as they were supposedly not intended for domestic consumption.
Congress is also set to have its own inquiry on the same missing containers and the unabated entry of drugs via the ports, last of which was drugs hidden inside pallets.