Customs employees hit back at Aquino

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President Benigno Aquino III. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The 3,000-member Bureau of Customs Employees Association (Bocea) hit back at President Benigno Aquino III Thursday for making “sweeping generalizations” in his recent State of the Nation Address, which depicted Customs personnel as corrupt and inefficient.

In a statement, Bocea president Romulo Pagulayan described the President’s pronouncements as “very disgraceful and humiliating.”

Aquino’s accusations “demoralized all officers and employees of the BOC” and were “in complete disregard of their rights to dignity and due process as provided for in the Constitution.”

In a news conference at the BOC headquarters in Manila’s South Harbor, about 20 Bocea members wore black arm bands to express their disappointment over the President’s remarks and to oppose reported plans to privatize the bureau.

The bureau “cannot be totally blamed for not meeting its revenue collection targets,” Pagulayan said because of such other factors as globalization, trade liberalization, a sluggish international trade and a strong peso.

BOC personnel “should not be faulted for the perceived smuggling problem in the bureau,” which the Bocea head claimed was “beyond the control of the BOC’s 17 collection districts.”

“At present, the total personnel complement of the bureau is just 3,000 distributed in 17 districts nationwide compared to 7,000 in 1980…. With this lack of personnel, the bureau cannot cover and effectively carry out its mandate,” he said.

In his SONA, Aquino lambasted the bureau for continuing to allow smuggled items, weapons and even illegal drugs into the country, as well as not properly taxing imported goods.

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