o it seems our dear incoming President Rody Duterte is having difficulty finding the right man to head the Agency, perceived to be the most corrupt this side of government. It will take more than sheer guts to curtail corruption there but I personally believe President Duterte will accomplish the task. As he has repeatedly declared that at his age he has nothing to lose.
Corruption starts the moment you enter its premises. Public parking lots are reserved for “choice” personnel and where you might be fortunate to find a place there, you will have to pay “parking fee” to a “hao shiao” meaning unofficial personnel. Customs Police officers will salute you not out of respect but for “picture” which means in layman’s terms perang pang consuelo which is most prominent on Fridays. Ask any Importer or Broker who frequents and transacts business at the place. Here in Manila we have the Main Customs Office at South Harbor and at North Harbor more popularly known as MICP (Manila International Container Port).
When you conduct business at the counters, it is quite normal and accepted behaviour of grease money changing hands. In fact if you forget or kulanging ka sa budget, magiging utang ito at sa susunod na pagpunta mo doon, kelangan bayaran mo muna utang mo. Kalakaran so to speak. Actually no one takes notice of this. Para ka lang bumibili ng sibuyas sa palengke. Hindi mo kukunin ang sukli o kaya kung kulang ang pangbayad mo sasabihin pa sa yo, “May utang ka ha?” “Sige sa susunod na lang.” you reply. No big deal. That’s just the way it is.
But the real problem where government loses money is when formal appraisals by Customs Appraisers are not accurately conducted in accordance with their Blue Books. To save money the Importer makes a deal with the Customs Appraiser to have their commodity’s taxes lowered. The Appraiser can only do this if his superiors allow it. The deal can go high as the Office of the Commissioner particularly in dealing with prohibited and restricted importations.
Now, why do you think that the INC pushed for Teddy Raval to head the Customs Enforcement and Security Service? What is the function of the ESS? Their function is merely to create headaches for Importers and Exporters. They review incoming cargo based on the Inward Manifest or a book where cargo arriving on a vessel is described in detail as to ETA, description of commodity, including its quantity. Once they see something doubtful, they have jurisdiction to issue an Alert Order. If everything is legal, you still have to get clearance to lift that Order which takes time. They are the mafia of the ports. In like manner they can clear cargo which is prohibited. And if both the ESS and the Commissioner’s Office works hand in hand, happy times are here again for them. And government loses in the end.
Let’s touch on one other aspect. Personal Effects or balikbayan boxes. These are stored in container vans when shipped out and unless no Alert on a particular container van has been effected, the van is opened for examination by the Customs Examiner at the ports. The regulation is 100% examination or meaning you open every one of the boxes to check its contents. But realistically, this is not done. The actual process is usually to just cut the container seals and the Examiner takes this to prove that examination was conducted. Or kung sinisipag siya, he opens the container van, opens a few boxes and then have it closed again. The 100 % examination is unrealistic because it would cause undue delay and congestion in the ports. But at the same time posing risks because we are not completely sure of the contents of each box.
Ever wonder how all these Ukay-Ukay stores came into existence. Actually, every one of them are relief goods sent by sympathetic countries to victims of calamities in our country. Customs are very strict in the release of these relief goods. Only authorized non-profit organizations are allowed to import them and approval for its release also necessitates the go signal of Malacanang aside from the BOC. So how did they manage? Easy. The interested party buys direct from the non-profit organization, or creates a bogus organization to import these goods. It is common knowledge at Customs. You just need the right connections to go about it.
We could go on and on but I think you get the picture. Here are some photos of the ESS and other offices at BOC, South Harbor.
Check out the resignation of former Customs Commissioner John Sevilla and his reason for doing so.
Teddy Raval, the reason behind Sevilla’s resignation, the new ESS head. Below, the former BOC Commissioner John Sevilla.