MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Customs plans to pursue aggressively the more than 120 criminal cases it has filed in the past two years against suspected smugglers, “no matter who their connections are in government,” Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said Thursday.
Biazon made the assertion after the bureau filed smuggling charges Thursday at the Department of Justice against a Manila trader and his broker for the allegedly illegal importation of P15 million worth of used clothing, locally called “ukay-ukay,” from Hong Kong, which they misdeclared as notebooks, trolley bags and tailor-shop accessories, among other things.
Biazon identified the respondents in the latest case as Rommel Marasigan, owner of Blue Shadow Trading, and broker Mel Banas. Both were accused of violating Sections 2503 and 2530 of the Tariffs and Customs Code of the Philippines, as well as Republic Act No. 4653, which bans the importation of used clothing for health reasons as they may harbor germs and other contaminants.
In a statement, Biazon said “the filing of smuggling cases against Marasigan and Banas manifests the bureau’s determination and commitment to safeguard the health and interest of the nation.”
“We will not allow our countrymen’s health to be compromised by the illegal activities of irresponsible and profit-driven traders and their cohorts in government,” he added.
The pace of litigation of smuggling cases was out of the bureau’s control but, Biazon said, “we will maintain close coordination with the justice department through our Run After the Smugglers program to secure convictions and put smugglers behind bars.”
According to him, the case against Marasigan and Banas stemmed from their attempt to smuggle four container vans of used clothing at the Manila International Container Port last June 10.
“Alert operatives of the Customs Intelligence Group, headed by Deputy Commissioner Danilo Lim, discovered the suspicious shipment on June 11, prompting the BOC unit to issue the corresponding alert order and the issuance of a warrant of seizure and detention to the shipment,” he said.
Last week, the bureau seized over P700 million worth of fake medicines during a raid on a warehouse in Binondo, Manila.