MANILA (UPDATED) - Twelve Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials suspected of involvement in illegal activities in the agency have been relieved of their posts.
Customs Commissioner John Sevilla ordered the transfer of the sacked officials to the Customs Policy Research Office, which has no direct say on the bureau's operations.
Among those axed were Samson Pacasum and Edward Dybuco, two Customs officials of the Port of Davao, where more than 100 container vans of smuggled rice passed without any permit.
Sevilla earlier disclosed at a Senate hearing the "Tara" corruption system at the bureau that he says has deep roots.
One proposed solution is the transfer of officials or employees suspected of corruption.
However, the Bureau of Customs Employees (BOCEA) is opposing the revamp at the agency.
BOCEA President Romy Pagulayan said sacking officials is not a solution and will not end corruption at the bureau.
He claimed that bribes will only be given to new officials.
Based on a confidential report acquired by ABS-CBN News, "Tara" is a regular bribe given by importers and brokers to Customs officials.
Instead of paying between P50,000 to P70,000 tax per container van, smugglers only give P15,000 per container, which is divided by various offices under the bureau.
However, if the container van contains rice, the "Tara" amounts to as much as P120,000 to undervalue or misdeclare the goods.
An estimated P91 billion is lost by the government annually because of the "Tara" system, according to officials.
'False and malicious'
Dybuco, in a statement to ABS-CBN News Friday, denied the allegations.
Dybuco said he and Pacasum were not removed from their posts as punishment for allowing the release of 167 containers of rice in Davao City.
He claimed that the report was "false and malicious."
"First, I'm no longer assigned in Davao Port when the rice shipments were released. I have been reporting with the Legal Service under the DepComm for RCMG [Revenue Collection Monitoring Group - Bureau of Customs]," he said.
"The new CPO [ Customs Personnel Order] directed me to report to (the) Office of DepComm RCMG which happens to be my mother unit," he added.
"Secondly, the rice shipments were released pursuant to a court order and not because [Collector] Pacasum wanted it released. We tried to hold the release of the rice due to persuasions from higher officials and various offices to defy the injunction order," Dybuco said.
"[Collector] Pacasum was the one who issued the alert and hold orders which I prepared. How could they say then that we allowed its release and be punished for such action?" he added.
Dybuco said he has sent "an urgent request to the Secretary of Finance and d Commissioner of Customs for a clarificatory statement" on the issue, which he said has "caused grave damage and injury to me and my family."
He also threatened to file "appropriate charges before the court and proper bodies." - with a report from Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News