MANILA, Philippines—Instead of abolishing the Bureau of Customs, Senator Francis Escudero suggested Saturday that the government try reforms that would not only rehabilitate the image of the agency but also change the culture of its officials and employees.
Escudero, for instance, suggested, half in jest, that customs officials and police have uniforms without pockets to discourage quick on-site doles and transparent glass-top tables with no drawers to prevent heftier enveloped payouts in the offices.
“And if they will not do it, I will file a bill requiring CCTV cameras in all government offices and making it a crime to erase the recordings of these cameras until after perhaps one year,” Escudero told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The chairman of the Senate committee on justice claimed that the PNP, another reputedly corrupt government agency, had an image makeover after it shed its old khakis and brown ties for its present blue uniform with red trim.
The PNP, however, ostensibly improved its trust ratings during the implementation of then director-general and now Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s no-take policy and other reforms in 1999.
“For me, discretion equals corruption. Why not do a systems review and minimize if not eliminate areas of discretion and establish transparent protocols and redundancies to ensure good governance?” Escudero said.
“In fact, the BOC can start with changing their uniforms and office furniture—those without pockets and drawers,” he added.
In another example, Escudero said the BOC could adopt a strict queuing system for incoming shipments so that those that came in first would be processed before those that would come in later.
Escudero said the system should easily result in sanctions on customs officials who would not process valuable shipment without receiving bribes.
“I don’t have any problem with its abolition but that will be a long process. A law has to be passed before it can be abolished,” Escudero said, indicating the bureaucratic nightmare an impasse in the customs collection process could create.
Escudero added that if the bureau would be abolished, it meant everyone in the bureau is corrupt and therefore should be prosecuted.
“If the assumption is that everyone there is corrupt, then why not file cases against them whether or not we create a new agency?” Escudero said.