MANILA, Philippines–The new year will bring a new clampdown at the Bureau of Customs where a number of BOC officials and employees have been making fortunes in connivance with smugglers.
The days of erring bureau personnel are definitely numbered, Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon told the Inquirer, two days before the start of 2013.
In the new year, “those who continue to engage in illegal activities in connivance with smugglers will be targeted and will face the full force of the law,” Biazon said.
“I intend to surpass our 2012 accomplishments under our Run After the Smugglers (RATS) campaign, just as we surpassed our accomplishments of the previous year,” he said.
In a text message, Biazon expressed confidence bureau personnel would “live up to my expectations that they would outperform themselves not only in the antismuggling drive but also in revenue collection and trade facilitation.”
He noted that under RATS, the bureau “has been consistently filing smuggling cases every other week (in the Department of Justice).”
“So far, we haven’t run out of cases to file,” he said, adding: “For the program, I’d like to see more convictions.”
In the last two years, the BOC has filed more than 100 smuggling cases against importers and traders who brought in over P60-billion worth of goods from various parts of the world.
But only one case so far has resulted in a conviction, Biazon admitted.
“A big problem is the large number of cases pending in the judicial system, which adversely affects the credibility of the RATS program,” he said.
Earlier, Biazon told a news conference the bureau’s job included filing smuggling cases promptly and it was up to the courts to decide them.
“Remember, [getting a] conviction is not the job of the Bureau of Customs but of the courts,” he said.
In the coming year, the BOC will also scrutinize the business records of bureau-accredited importers in order to ferret out not only the smugglers but the fly-by-night and fictitious firms.
In an earlier phone interview, Biazon said “it’s true smuggling is still one of the biggest problems facing the bureau.”
“However, it’s not true that we are not addressing the problem.”
Biazon put the blame mainly on “about 50 percent of customs operations still being manually done, as well as antiquated customs laws.”
He also pointed to the “connivance between corrupt government officials and corrupt businessmen” for the smuggling going on at the country’s major ports.
“This connivance occurs because the operating environment allows it to with human intervention and abuse of discretion being the principal tools,” he said.