DOF wants plunder for big-time smuggling

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 06 2010 12:06 AM | Updated as of Aug 06 2010 11:51 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima wants plunder charges filed against smugglers who attempt or are able to get away with non-payment of import duties and taxes P50 million and up.

Purisima bared this in a press conference at the justice department during the filing of raps vs Plum Blossom Import-Export Food Corporation and Full Story Source Marketing. (Click here for story.)

Purisima is now asking the legal opinion of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on the matter.

Purisima said this move shows how serious the Aquino government is in cracking the whip against smugglers saying, "We are serious, and it cannot be business as usual."

The finance chief underscored the importance of the Bureau of Customs' accreditation process being done properly since it is a long-time modus of smugglers "to use very small entities located in very small offices or slum areas which they close down once caught".

Purisima said he has ordered Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez to set standards on accreditation to make it difficult for smugglers to open and close down companies.

Purisima has given Alvarez 3 months to fix the accreditation list.

The finance department has also ordered the cross-checking of the Income Tax Returns of these entities as well as to determine who among the customs brokers are "knowing partners" of smuggling operations.

The Department of Finance (DoF) will also look into the potential liability of the auditors of these firms.

De Lima said she will study the DoF proposal on the filing of plunder raps.

"That's an important or significant proposition as an additional measure to deter, so I will study that proposition if it can be done," she says.

De Lima has also ordered public prosecutors handling cases filed by the finance department to observe the necessary reglamentary periods to fast track the disposition of cases.