Of the more than 100 smuggling cases that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has filed in the past two years, only one has resulted in a conviction, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said, adding that the bureau was “not to blame for the very low conviction rate.”
“Remember, conviction is not the job of the agency, but of the courts,” he said.
Biazon pointed out that the bureau’s RATS (Run After The Smugglers) program has been consistently filing smuggling cases every other week, but that a “big number of cases (remain) pending in the judicial system, which affects the credibility of the program (and its) success rate.”
The customs chief said the agency plans to have an enhanced coordination with the judiciary and follow up the pending smuggling cases against erring importers and customs brokers who allegedly shipped in at least P60 billion worth of goods.
On July 12, Danilo Villar, owner of Vill Gay Forwarding Services, and his customs broker, Danilo Opiniano, were found guilty by a Manila Regional Trial Court of violating provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines and sentenced to prison terms of eight to nine years.
Last week, Biazon announced the filing of smuggling cases against the top officials of car importers JV & A Enterprises and Total Golden Motor Care, Inc., based in Davao City and Cebu City, respectively.
According to the BOC, JV & A Enterprises allegedly brought in P13 million worth of luxury vehicles misdeclared as used industrial equipment, while Total Golden imported P5 million worth of vehicles without the required import permit.
Biazon also vowed to contain meat smuggling in the country’s ports amid complaints from local hog and poultry raisers that the oversupply and dumping of cheaper imported meat in the local market has been killing their business.
“With the rigid processing of all imported meat products, only properly documented imported meat will get through the Customs gates,” the customs chief said, adding that “measures have been put in place to contain meat smuggling, especially at this time of the year when attempts to sneak in illegally imported meat… happen the most.”
In another effort to expand the BOC’s antismuggling efforts, Biazon issued Special Order No. 24, creating a task force that would closely scrutinize the business records of BOC-accredited importers and separate them from fictitious ones.
“We will now carefully scrutinize the documents of each accredited importer to validate and verify their actual existence,” he said.
Earlier, Biazon said the BOC was “faced with the challenge of overcoming negative public perception” that it is one of the most corrupt agencies of the government.
In fact, BOC Deputy Commissioner for Administration Juan Lorenzo Tañada told a news conference that if there was one song that the agency could do without, it would be Eva Eugenio’s jukebox hit, “Tukso (Temptation).”
“Di pwede ang kantang ‘Tukso, Layuan Mo Ako’ kasi araw-araw andyan eh (The opportunities for corruption are just too many),” Tañada quipped.
The BOC official said his office “has been receiving plenty of complaints and white papers about crocodiles and bad elements in the agency. Unfortunately, the complaints do not have signatures. They’re mostly anonymous.”
He added, “I hope these complainants will be man or woman enough to stand behind their complaints. We will not hesitate to bring these corrupt people to court, if not jail.”
Tañada said he strongly believes that “values transformation is what (corrupt BOC personnel) need,” and that “with BOC top officials leading by example, I think somehow it can be done.”
John Simon, head of the bureau’s provident fund, has called for increases in employee benefits “to prevent personnel from being tempted to engage in corrupt practices.”
“The agency has prioritized computerization and other management reforms. However, it has forgotten one important aspect: personnel and the benefits they deserve to get,” Simon pointed out.
But Tañada assured the public that “reforms are being put in place… with agency targets reasonably met before President Aquino’s term ends in 2016, if not earlier.”
He added: “The light of day is shining in the Bureau of Customs.”