OPINION: Dear OFWs, your balikbayan boxes are now at risk of being delayed, torn open, 'thrown into the sea'

Raissa Robles

Posted at Nov 12 2018 12:18 PM

This time of year, families with relatives working abroad await the yearly "padala" of balikbayan boxes.

The boxes are stuffed lovingly by fathers, mothers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters with lots of goodies for their loved ones back home.

But wait.

There’s a huge spoiler in the works that—if not addressed—could result in rage and frustration toward the Bureau of Customs and even President Rodrigo Duterte.

Remember the two separate smuggled shipments of nearly two tons of shabu that caused Duterte to sack all top officials of Customs and bring in the army?

Then he ordered the army chief: “Giingnan nako — si Chief of Staff sa Army, bungkaga na tanan, og di ka makuntento ihulog sa dagat aron way samok. Ingna bayran nato sila ugma. Nganong mopasubo man ta ana?”

According to CNN Philippines, Duterte said in translation: “I told the Chief of Staff of the Army to open everything and to throw it in the sea if they’re not contented just to avoid any more issues. Tell them we’ll pay them tomorrow. Why should we take that risk?”

It is, in my view, a reckless order that could put at risk your balikbayan boxes and the reputation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It gives soldiers the authority to “open everything” and you know how that goes. Unscrupulous persons could exploit this and start filching from your balikbayan boxes AND THEN BLAME THE SOLDIERS.

If your boxes aren’t torn open, their release from the ports could be much delayed due to the more stringent measures Customs now has to take.

According to former Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, an entire shipload of containers was issued an “alert order” just before Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña was removed.

Congressman Biazon estimated that this would number around 492 containers that would now have to be opened one by one and their contents manually checked.

“If they will be forced to have all those containers inspected, it will take more than a month,” Biazon told me.

“An alert order is issued when there is derogatory information or suspected goods,” he explained. “And if you alert an entire shipload, you will have to examine all the goods one by one.”

And consider this, he said, “everyday, containers are coming in. These [containers] will pile up because you only have so many people doing the inspections, and processing, and all the paperwork for that”

“Congestion could be of nightmarish proportions,” he said. Which is why, “they have to act fast on this.”

He also said he was told of other ships coming in “with pending alert orders”. During his time, Biazon said only the official who had issued the alert order could lift the order. He heard that the issuance of alert orders was centralized during the time of Nicanor Faeldon. Only Faeldon could issue it and lift it. He doesn’t know if Lapena had changed that.

So if your balikbayan box is delayed, or have items missing or simply disappeared, you know why. If you are a Duterte supporter, just grin and bear it and tell yourself, #ChangeIsComing.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.