House panel wants BOC abolished due to widespread corruption
The House of Representatives ways and means committee recommended the abolition of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for its endemic corruption following the shipment of P6.4-billion worth of shabu through the Customs’ green lane that was the subject of inquiry.
The panel concluded its investigation into the smuggled drug shipment with its report released to the media Monday night.
The ways and means committee thus, took the same position as the House dangerous drugs committee, which also looked into the drug shipment and recommended the BOC’s replacement and the filing of criminal raps against resigned Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon.
In the report, the committee recommended the abolition of the BOC and replace it by creating two new bureaus—the Bureau of Customs Service and the Bureau of Security Control.
“As a long-term solution, and in order to restore the trust and confidence of the public in this Government, this Committee respectfully recommends the abolition of the present Bureau of Customs, and replace it by creating two new bureaus performing separate functions of (1) protecting and securing the national borders and (2) assessing and collecting duties and taxes,” the committee said in its 82-page report.
The customs service bureau will be tasked to assess and collect import duties and taxes, adopt a modern customs control system, and privatize non-sovereign functions. It will be under the Department of Finance.
The security control bureau, meanwhile, will be tasked to exercise police authority at all ports, take charge of the customs border control, port security and communication, as well as inspection and monitoring of cargoes. It will be under the Department of the Interior and Local Government, in close coordination with the Philippine National Police and other enforcement agencies.
The House panel likewise recommended a two-year transition period, during which time President Rodrigo Duterte would be granted emergency powers to take over the BOC’s powers to ensure the public’s safety and security.
The committee cited the 1987 Constitution, which states that the President may be granted emergency powers by Congress “in times of war or other national emergency.”
“The occurrence of the national emergency may be considered when the Philippine first line of defense has been compromised because of the Bureau’s corruption and incompetence in protecting and securing our border from entry of large scale contraband especially illegal drugs,” the committee said.
“Thus, this Committee recommends that Congress grant the President emergency powers to immediately take over the operations of the Bureau in order to ensure public safety and security. The power to be granted to the President should be carefully studied, and may include privatization of certain departments or functions within the present Bureau,” it added.
The House panel made the recommendation following its findings that corruption in the bureau resulted in P43.8 billion revenue loss from July 2016 to July 2017, which could have funded the government’s free higher education program.
The House also computed that the corrupt bureau personnel amassed over P7.6 billion a year in “tara” or grease money.
“As a result of corruption, incompetence of Bureau personnel, and manipulation of the Bureau’s system, the safety of the general public was put to risk, and the Government lost P43.8 billion in revenues, which could have funded the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act under R.A. No. 10931, and other vital government programs. In exchange for the grave injury caused to the general public, these corrupt Bureau personnel amassed over P7.6 billion a year from grease money,” the panel said.
“Corruption within the Bureau plays a bigger role than lost revenues. It affects the country’s economy as a whole considering that the Bureau plays an indispensable role in the country’s importation and exportation,” it added. /jpv