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Lacson: Payoffs at BOC reach P270M a day

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Lacson: Payoffs at BOC reach P270M a day

AMOUNT ENOUGH TO WIPE OUT GOV’T’S P147-B BUDGET DEFICIT
Sen. Panfilo Lacson

Sen. Panfilo Lacson (File photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Published: 1:35 p.m., Aug. 1, 2017 | Updated: 11:59 p.m., Aug. 1, 2017

Corrupt Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials and personnel get P270 million in payoffs daily through the “3 o’clock Friday habit,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Tuesday, basing his estimate on customs brokers he had spoken with.

Lacson told reporters he asked Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon on Monday during a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing about the 3 o’clock Friday gathering in which customs personnel shared the payoffs, but Faeldon did not reply.

The blue ribbon committee conducted a hearing on the 605 kilograms of “shabu” (crystal meth) worth P6.4 billion that the BOC seized in May in a Valenzuela City warehouse. The shipment had passed through the BOC without inspection.

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Despite the seriousness of the allegations against Faeldon, the BOC chief continues to have President Rodrigo Duterte’s full trust and will stay in office, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

P27,000 per container

Citing information from brokers, Lacson said the BOC officials and personnel were getting on average P27,000 to P30,000 per container daily.

The payoffs amounted to P270 million a day because Faeldon has said 10,000 containers go through the BOC daily, Lacson said.

“If you multiply this (P270 million) by 365 days, that is P98.5 billion a year,” he said.

Lacson said brokers and not the Customs Risk Management Office (RMO) were the ones who encoded data in the BOC system whether a shipment should go to designated lanes.

BOC officials blamed RMO chief Larribert Hilario for not encoding properly in the system the shipment of EMT Trading, consignee of the shabu from Xiamen, allowing the shipment to leave the BOC without inspection.

Asked if he thought Faeldon and other BOC officials should resign over the handling of the P6.4-billion shabu raid in Valenzuela City in May, Lacson said such act was a “personal call.”

It was also up to the President if Faeldon would be fired, he added.

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Faeldon in Malacañang

Mr. Duterte met with Faeldon in Malacañang on Tuesday afternoon, hours after the customs chief came under fire in the House of Representatives over the shabu shipment from China.

“The Chief Executive has expressed his full confidence in Commissioner Faeldon and told him to focus on serving the country,” Dominguez said in a statement.

The BOC is an agency under the Department of Finance.

Mr. Duterte also summoned Senate leaders to Malacañang to discuss the shabu smuggling scandal.

The meeting came a day after the Senate blue ribbon committee investigated the shabu shipment.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said Mr. Duterte called him, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for the meeting.

Asked if he would support calls for Faeldon to resign, Sotto said it was a “necessary consequence” of the agency’s failure to stop the drug smuggling.

Enough to cover deficit

Lacson said the amount of payola, or lost government revenues, in two years could “wipe out” the budget deficit expected to hit P147 billion year.

Lacson asked Faeldon during the Senate hearing on Monday whether the “tara,” or payoffs, at the BOC had increased because the duties for each container had dropped to P40,000 from P100,000.

Faeldon replied he was just enforcing the law that prohibited “benchmarking.”

Lacson said the controversy over the shabu haul was “not about Faeldon” but about “how the drugs were able to get out of Customs.” /ac/atm

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, Nicanor Faeldon, payola scandal, Senator Panfilo Lacson
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