Lawmaker brings Customs consultant to tears

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2017 04:19 AM

House Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin on Wednesday gave Customs officials a tongue-lashing over their management of the agency amid the smuggling of shabu into the country, even bringing one consultant to tears.

With the principal resource persons unable to attend the Ways and Means Committee hearing since they were attending a similar probe at the Senate, congressmen were left to grilling lower ranking officials of the agency.

Ways and Means Committee Chair Carlo Cua announced the possibility of another hearing on Friday afternoon because of the absence of the officials.

Garin said she has a video of Althea Acas, a consultant who introduced herself as a Customs Policy expert for the Finance department, shouting at people who were asking about the Customs in a public consultation.

Acas supposedly shouted at someone that he wasn't reading on the law.

In tears, Acas explained they published the content of the public consultation 7 days before and insisted the one she was shouting at did not do his research.

Garin then let loose her frustration since she is one of the authors of the Customs and Tarif Modernization Act.

Garin first questioned lawyer Michael John Humarang of the Department of Justice because there have been no cases filed yet over the shabu seized in Valenzuela last May valued at over P6 billion.

Humarang said only one case has been filed, against the caretaker of the warehouse, Fidel Anoche Dy, and that they have to wait for the complaint to be filed by law enforcement agencies like the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

He added that only the Justice Secretary has motu propio powers or the filing of cases.

Garin said there is inaction on the part of the National Bureau of Investigation and BOC who appear to be waiting for each other.

Garin next grilled Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon’s chief of staff Mandy Anderson over a unit which is concerned with smuggling. 

Anderson tried to refer the question to Port Operations Service Director James Layug, who she said would be more competent to answer the question.

Garin next grilled Layug over the hiring of former military men, asking what their qualifications were for anti-smuggling operations. 

Garin said there are many others qualified for the job yet the bureau under Faeldon hired technical assistants. She said they bypassed many in the ranks when they hired about 1,000 contractuals, most of whom are former military men. 

She then went back to Anderson and grilled her on her background in Customs, noting that she is a recent bar examinee and had just been working in a law firm, questioning her qualification to be a decision-maker in the bureau. 

Garin said Anderson also rejected a recommendation for promotion from House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Anderson said she did not reject the recommendation and admitted she has no Customs background.

Garin asked Acas how come they had different interpretations for the regulation on balikbayan boxes, in which the latter maintained it was a Department of Finance decision. 

Garin also questioned the qualification of Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala, noting he was in the Oakwood mutiny.

When Acas tried to respond, Garin cut her off and said “you are not recognized."