Lawmaker seeks 'meticulous,' 'thorough' investigation of Customs fire


Posted at Feb 23 2019 01:38 PM

MANILA - The best investigators should probe a fire that destroyed documents and computer files at an office of the Bureau of Customs, a lawmaker said Saturday. 

The blaze, the cause of which is still unknown, struck the BOC office in South Harbor, Manila on Friday night. Some documents destroyed by the inferno had no back-up copies, said Customs Spokesperson Dino Austria. 

Austria said this might cause port congestion and other problems. 

Misamis Oriental Rep. Juliette Uy said it is "understandable for the public to be skeptical about the cause of the fire" given the "notoriety of the Bureau of Customs for graft and corruption." 

"I request (Interior) Secretary Eduardo Año to task the Bureau of Fire Protection to immediately assign its best arson investigators to probe this incident," she said in a statement. 

"Their investigation must be meticulous, thorough, and scientific," added Uy, who is a member of the House committee on public order and safety. 

Customs officials have come under fire for multibillion-peso drug shipments that slipped past port inspections. Legislative inquiries into the issue bared an alleged "tara" system or end-of-the-week distribution of bribes in the agency, which allowed the smuggling of contraband to thrive. 

Disruptions in the port "can have ripple effects involving the business sector and the flow of goods in and out of the Manila Bay harbor," warned Uy. 

"Perhaps some of the operations can be transferred to the Manila International Container Terminal. Maybe, if necessary, some shipments can be diverted to Subic Bay or to the Batangas Port," she suggested.