Some senators, congressmen call up Customs: Tanada

By David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jul 25 2013 10:34 AM | Updated as of Jul 27 2013 02:11 AM

MANILA - Senators, congressmen and people claiming to be relatives of top government officials are just some of the "powerful forces" who are using their clout to influence the Bureau of Customs, a top Customs official said Thursday.

Speaking to radio dzMM, Customs Deputy Commissioner Juan Lorenzo Tañada confirmed that he has received several phone calls about the possible hiring of personnel inside the bureau.

"Madalas po yan lalo na hiring and promotion and appointment ng tao sa bureau kasi sa internal administration group yun. May ready made sagot ako diyan na it is Commissioner Biazon who (will make a decision). Doon sa tumatawag, madalas po yan. Nagsasabi po ng totoo si Deputy Commissioner Danny (Lim)," he said.

"Meron (senador). Cabinet secretary kinakamusta lang. Ang tumatawag lang ay mga senador. Meron din po congressman at mga pekeng kamag-anak ng may matataas na tungkulin," he added.

Regarding the entry of shipments, he said it is usually Deputy Commissioner Danny Lim who receives those calls.

Lim earlier told radio dzMM there are too many "powerful forces" that are affecting his work to capture smugglers and institute reforms in the bureau.

"Example, meron tayong gagawin, meron tayong i-a -alert, meron tayong huhulihin. Kaaalis mo pa lang andami nang tumatawag, nakikiusap, nag re-request. Yung mga ganyan...so hindi nakakatulong," he said.

He said that some of the requests involve the entry of contraband goods. "Nahihirapan ako sa ganyan," he said.

Tañada said it will take at least 12 years or the terms of two administrations to rid the agency of corruption.

He explained that after years of being marred with anomalous transactions, the bureau will have to undergo a lot of reforms including implementation of new regulations and a systems upgrade.

"Hindi po natin magagamot sa loob ng tatlong taon. Honestly po kailangan po ng minimum dalawang termino ng administrasyon," he said in a radio dzMM interview.

"Dalawang pangulo na parehas yung mindset kasi po ang totoo po niyan matapos ang termino ni PNoy kung hindi katulad ng kay PNoy ay back-to-square one po ang mangyayari," he added.

"Personally po I think minimum pa yung 12 taon."

Tañada said one of the biggest problems hounding the bureau is the discretion given to Customs employees to evaluate the shipments.

He said many Customs personnel are tempted to accept bribes due to their meager salaries.

"Isa sa mga pinakamalaking problema pagbigay ng discretion sa mga tao sa frontline to make decisions. Ibig ko sabihin masyadong malaki ang leeway na binibigay sa empleyado pag andun ka sa frontline especially po yung mga sweldo ng kawani natin hindi ganun kataas," he said.

Cleaning up Customs

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon earlier revealed that he cannot just file cases against subordinates accused of wrongdoing because many complainants refuse to cooperate in the investigation.

He said many businessmen who accuse Customs officials of corruption refuse to participate in entrapment operations or file an official complaint that can be used as basis to file a legal case.

"100 percent turn it down. They always say - how long are you going to be staying there? If we file a case and you are no longer there, what will happen to our business?" he said.

"Walang gustong officially mag-complain," he added.

The Customs chief admitted that some businessmen may have underdeclared their own shipments in the first place, which places them at the mercy of corrupt Customs men.

He confirmed that many businessmen openly pay bribes to fast-track the release of their shipments.

Biazon admitted that he has received phone calls from various people who ask for his help to facilitate the quick release of their shipments.

"Meron kasing mga instances na may naglalapit ng kanilang mga hiling. Pero sa akin, so far sa level ko hindi naman umaabot ng ganun ka regular ang ganyan. Usually sa akin naman, kapag may lumalapiy na nagpapatulong, sinasabi ko basta according to process tayo. Kung ano ang nakasaad sa batas yun ang susundin natin. Kung may paraan na magkaroon ng release just by paying a penalty, we will make them pay the penalty pero kung talagang may diperensya ang mga kargamento basta i-implementa ang batas," he said.

He said the government is eyeing major reforms in the agency including reassignments of Customs collectors and the filing of cases against some Customs men.