MANILA — Two officials from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Tuesday denied allegations in a Senate report tagging them as "alleged protectors and smugglers of agricultural products in the country."
In separate statements, BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero and Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Geofrey Tacio vehemently denied the allegations in a report forwarded to Senate President Vicente Sotto III on May 17.
"The Senate Committee report citing me as one of the government officials involved in agricultural smuggling also contains the numerous accomplishments of BOC in its campaign against agricultural smuggling, and the adoption of the executive recommendations, which I directed," Guerrero said.
He also mentioned some of the anti-smuggling initiatives of the BOC under his watch, such as allowing Department of Agriculture (DA) representatives in the non-intrusive inspection of containers, and deputizing DA personnel for enforcement operations.
"In addition, 82% or 139 out of the 170 Customs processes are now automated to reduce human intervention that provides an avenue for negotiation," he said.
He said these measures helped BOC seize about P2.5 billion worth of smuggled agricultural products from 2016 to May 2022, while 111 cases were filed against "unscrupulous stakeholders."
"We firmly denounce fraudulent importations of agricultural products. BOC remains committed to its mandate of securing the country's borders against the entry of smuggled agricultural products and other illicit goods," Guerrero said.
For his part, Tacio said that the list that linked him and other officials in agricultural smuggling "may have been from one of the smugglers" that they had arrested.
Tacio maintained that his office "thwarted smuggling of agricultural products with joint operations of law enforcement agencies."
"We have been closely working with the AFP, PNP, NBI and the PCG to carry out the anti-smuggling efforts of the Bureau," he said.
Despite the allegations, Tacio said his office will "not be deterred" but will instead be "more inspired to continue doing our mandate to protect our borders and prevent smuggling to the last day."
Tacio and Guerrero, along with at least 7 other officials, were named in a "validated list" as among those allegedly involved in the smuggling of the country's agricultural products.
Among those named include DA Central Office Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan, Bureau of Plant Industry Director George Culaste, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Eduardo Gongona, Laarni Roxas of the Bureau of Plant Industry-PQSD Region 3, BOC Intelligence Group Deputy Commissioner Raniel Ramiro, Revenue Collection and Monitoring Group Deputy Commissioner Vener Baquiran, and Import and Assessment's Yasser Abas.