Senate probe sought into Customs’ ‘padrino system’

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Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero has formally sought a Senate investigation into the alleged “padrino system”  that has been plaguing the Bureau of Customs (BoC).

Escudero filed Senate Resolution Number 124, calling for a joint investigation by the blue ribbon, ways and means, and finance committees, following an admission by  high officials of the bureau that influential personalities have been interfering in the agency’s conduct of business.

“This political patronage in the bureau’s system is a loud whisper that cannot and should not be ignored anymore. It has acculturated the entire agency, even its own officials already admitted to its existence,” the senator said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We in Congress should police our own ranks. Who else will look into this if we ourselves turn our eyes away from it?” he asked.

Escudero noted that Customs  Commissioner Ruffy Biazon himself had admitted in an interview that the “padrino system” was  difficult to break up because it was  deeply entrenched inside and outside the system.

Biazon’s deputy, Commissioner for Intelligence Danilo Lim also admitted in a report that “powerful forces are interfering in the operations of BoC”.

These “powerful forces”, also confirmed by its Commissioner for Administration, allegedly included senators, congressmen and relatives of some high officials.

Escudero challenged the BoC officials last week to name names so that those who guilty could be made accountable.

“Assuming that not all employees of the BoC are thieves, but the government must weed out all the thieves in the agency, and all those who dip themselves in its coffers, especially from members of Congress if there are. There is an emphasis on the kind of public accountability that is constitutionally demanded of from senators and representatives of the Republic,” he said.

The senator pointed out that Section 14, Article 6 of the Constitution, categorically proscribes any form of intervention from members of Congress in any matter before any office of government for his pecuniary benefit.

Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, he said, also defined persuading, inducing or influencing any another public officer as one of the corrupt practices punishable under the law.

As the second biggest revenue earner in government, Customs, he said, deserved a full and thorough legislative deliberation not only to institute reforms but also to cleanse it.

“The BoC has long been perceived as the most corrupt agency in the government. Its performance in terms of revenue collection is a major instrument for the government’s target programs. Any deficit is directly proportional to the public’s disadvantage,” Escudero added.

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