The House Ways and Means Committee believes former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon “systematized” corruption within his former bureau, costing government about P43.8 billion in lost revenues.
This was one of the findings of the panel that submitted a report to the House plenary, through the Committee on Rules.
The report was made at the conclusion of the panel’s motu propio investigation in aid of legislation on the smuggling of the high-grade shabu amounting to P6.4 billion in May this year.
"To further systematize the corruption within the bureau, Commissioner Faeldon created the Command Center (Comcen). Faeldon removed the powers of the various Bureau offices to issue and lift alert orders and centralized it into the Comcen. By doing so Commissioner Faeldon and his cohorts used the Comcen as a conduit of corruption and monopolizing the collection of tara from Customs Players," the report said.
"In order to systematize the entire 'tara' system, benchmarking was resorted to by both corrupt bureau personnel and Customs players. Presently, imported shipments are benchmarked at P40,000 per container regardless of the value of the imported goods," it added.
The panel also felt that Faeldon “engaged incompetent, willful, and neglectful bureau personnel who are not qualified for the job. Majority of the deputy commissioners appointed were not organic from the bureau, and had little or no experience in Customs practice. Former military mean who are considered of close personal relations to Faeldon assumed 13 top posts in the bureau or were appointed as district collectors."
The panel also noted that in addition to appointing incompetent top bureau officials, "Faeldon also engaged consultants to perform confidential and management functions that should only be performed by organic personnel, circumventing the state’s policy on public accountability."
Likewise, several consultants who did not perform any customs functions and over 800 Special Studies and Project Development Committee (SSPDC) officers who have little or no background or technical know-how on their supposed functions were also engaged by Faeldon, it added.
"As a result, the government was made to pay millions of pesos every month to compensate bureau personnel who either do not perform any customs functions or are incapable of performing their duties," the report added.
The panel also believes Faeldon and other erring bureau personnel designed the selectivity system to be manipulated, allowing the entry of contraband into Philippine borders without inspection. It said that the previous automated system of updating risk parameters were made manual under Faeldon’s administration, and that highly classified HS codes were leaked to Customs players after paying “tara” money.
The report also said “corrupt” bureau personnel jeopardized prosecution of suspected criminals when they acted outside their authority in pursuing shipment of drugs that is already beyond the bureau’s jurisdiction.
The report computes revenue loss from July 2016 to July 2017 at P43.8 billion from 284,130 undervalued containers multiplied by 154,000 revenue loss per container.
The committee recommended the replacement of the BOC with 2 new bureaus exercising separate powers and functions.
These are the Bureau of Customs Service to assess and collect import duties and taxes under the Finance Department and the Bureau of Security Control under the DILG that shall exercise police authority at all ports, taking charge of customs border control, port security and communication as well as inspection and monitoring of cargo.
The panel also recommended the grant of emergency powers to the President to establish a fully operational system; the abolition of the Command Center, the immediate revocation of invalid customs memoranda, orders and or regulations, immediate dismissal from service of the bureau personnel and have them investigated, reorganize the bureau, implement the national single window program, upgrade and fully implement the automation of the bureau’s information technology system, among others.
The panel recommended the dismissal of Faeldon, Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala, Director Neil Anthony Estrella, Director Milo Maestrecampo, Atty. Mary Grace Malabed, Atty Larribert Hilario, Atty. Vincent Philipp Maronilla, Lorna Rosario, Rainer Ragos and Alexandra Yap Ventura,and Mandy Anderson.
The committee wants Faeldon investigated for possible violations of Republic Act 10640, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, Republic Act 9485 and Republic Act 3019, Presidential Decree 1929, usurpation of public authority, the Code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees, the violation of the inter-agency MOA and the gross neglect of duty.
It wants Estrella and Joel Pinawin investigated for alleged violations of RA 9165, 10863, 9485, PD 1829, the Revised Penal Code, RA 3019, RA 6713, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and inefficiency, and incompetence in the performance of official duties.
Similarly, it wants the raiding team of Estrella, Dambala, Deputy Commissioner Edward James Dy Buco, Deputy Commissioner Teddy Raval, Deputy Commissioner Natalio Encarma and Atty. Alvin Ebreo, Milo Maestrecampo, Vincent Philipp Maronilla, Larribert Hilario, Mary Grace Malabed, Lorna Rosario and Alexandra Yap Ventura, Roy Lawagan, Mandy Anderson and Jelina Magsuci , Chen I Men, Juhn Ming Jyun, Richard Tan /Richard Chen, Li Guang Feng, Fidel Anoche Dee, Kenneth Dong, Mark Ruben Taguba, Teejay Marcellana and Eirene Mae Tatad investigated for various violations.
The committee also wants an investigation of the following identified players, fixers and or bagmen: Julie Gamboa Alias Kimberley, Ruben Taguba And Mnark Taguba, Tina Yu And Jerry Yu, David Tan Manny Santos Jeffrey King, Jerry Teves And Joel Teves, Edwin Santos, Eden Maranan, Noel Bocaling, Grupo Ng RAM, Big Mama, Boy Sabater, Nero Andal, Nap Sanota, Alvin Prieto, Vic Reyes, Jerry Yap, Lea Dela Cruz, Johnny Sy, Chris Bolastig, Jojo Bacud Mike Saban, Tita Nany, Davcao Groiup and Gen Alen Capuyan.
Faeldon and the other officials cited in the report have yet to issue statements on the allegations.
He earlier urged Customs employees and importers to stop illicit activities in the bureau.
In his farewell speech in the bureau, Faeldon lamented how importers failed to tell on Customs employees who are accepting 'tara' (grease money) or are engaged in undervaluation. He noted the bureau cannot prosecute Customs men accused of corruption based on just text messages.
"It is so unfortunate that among you 12,000 importers, not a single one has the courage to come forward and let me know who among our employees are [on the] take," he said.
"For us to be able to prosecute, you have to come forward -
courageous enough to stand by your statement and let us file cases against them...Until you do so, everyone who wants to destroy the name of this bureau can continue to destroy it successfully because wala tayong nahuhuli."