Cua: House panel eyes criteria for Customs appointments
The House of Representatives ways and means committee is likely to recommend that criteria be put in place for appointments to the Bureau of Customs so it would not be occupied by those who lack technical know-how.
Committee chair Quirino Rep. Dakila Carlo Cua stressed the taxation agency, mandated to regulate trade and combat smuggling, requires personnel who could understand “highly technical” details.
“There should be certain criteria for offices where you cannot be unable to understand the system. These are highly technical. You cannot get people who do not understand,” Cua said in a radio interview on Sunday.
Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other key officials such as Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service Director Neil Estrella were criticized by lawmakers in the House’s marathon hearings for violating various legal procedures on conducting anti-drug operations and handling narcotic evidence, possibly killing any chance of a criminal case to prosper.
Cua said while Faeldon was seen as a “tough military man” who would not easily be influenced, this would hardly be enough.
“It’s not just about, ‘oh, I’m tough and you cannot scare me.’ What’s required is someone who really studies the system, looks into the details, looks at the parameters of the risk management system,” he said.
At the same time, the committee may likely to recommend an “overhaul or revamp” of the BoC when it comes up with its report on its investigation of the smuggling of P6.4-billion worth of shabu (crystal meth) in May.
He said the command center organized by Faeldon should be abolished for centralizing functions under one entity, hampering anti-smuggling operations.
“There’s a need, I think, for an overhaul or a revamp,” he said. “One of the recommendations I think this committee will pursue is the abolition of the command center.”
He compared the consolidation of authority in the BoC to an “embudo (funnel),” allowing certain key officials to have greater control.
At the same time, Cua said the committee may recommend that certain criteria be put in place
Since the contraband shipment slipped past the Customs’ risk-selectivity system and was allowed to go through the green lane for minimal inspection, Cua said the command center set-up failed to address the smuggling problem.
“The purpose of the command center is to be stricter and to be more controlled by the Commissioner’s trusted men, but it did not happen,” Cua said, even despite the tightened system coming at the expense of checks and balances.
Going by the testimony of broker Mark Taguba II who admitted to paying grease money to facilitate his shipments, Cua noted that the command center is “still prone to corruption.”
“No one could have manipulated [the system] but an insider. If that’s the case, somebody in the command center is part of the corrupt system,” he said.
As part of the BOC’s selectivity system, products imported to the country pass through four lanes, depending on the risk level: super-green, green, yellow, and red.
The kitchenware shipment consigned to EMT Trading, which turned out to contain shabu, went through the green lane because of the lack of parameters that would signal the need for stricter inspection. JE
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