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Sharp Edges

Bureau of Customs: government cesspool

/ 05:02 AM October 30, 2018

For the first time in decades, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will be overhauled from top to bottom.

With the “promotion” of ex-Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the new BOC commissioner, former Armed Forces Chief of Staff and ex-Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Rey Leonardo Guerrero, was tasked to implement the “massacre.”

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First to be booted out were all deputy commissioners appointed by Lapeña, including his closest assistants from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). And with the entry of Guerrero and his new deputy commissioners, the replacement or removal of all port collectors, deputy port collectors, department heads and section chiefs must follow.

Last year, P6.4 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) from China was successfully smuggled into the Port of Manila during the watch of then Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon. In August, Lapeña’s group discovered two magnetic lifters abandoned at Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) allegedly containing shabu worth P4.3 billion from Malaysia.

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But at the same time, four magnetic lifters from Vietnam and Hong Kong were cleared also at the same port. Reportedly containing a ton of shabu worth P6.8 billion, the lifters were later found empty in a Cavite warehouse. After a reweighing, PDEA Chief Aaron Aquino revised his estimate, saying that the lifters contained 1.6 tons of shabu which, if sold on the streets, would be worth P11 billion.

It is clear that the first shabu shipment under Lapeña’s watch was intentionally tipped off to authorities so that the second shipment, which was bigger, could be checked out undetected. If we follow former customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban’s testimony before the Senate blue ribbon committee, it was dismissed Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto who facilitated the shipments of all magnetic lifters containing shabu at MICT in July.

Former PDEA Deputy Director Ismael Fajardo admitted that he received a tip from Acierto about the arriving shabu shipments. He relayed the information to Guban, who then informed Customs Deputy Commissioner Ricardo Quinto and former Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service Director Adzhar Albani.

Acierto said he was just sharing information and helping the PDEA and the BOC. “I told them there was a shipment coming in, but the claims that I am behind the smuggling, that is not true, I will never do that. I have been in the police service for 18 years. I served our country well. I will never do that.”

Sen. Richard Gordon doubts this and is bent on pinning down Acierto, together with Fajardo, using Guban as a “state witness.” Earlier, President Duterte released to media a “dossier” on the top 7 PDEA and Philippine National Police officers involved in the smuggling and distribution of shabu which included Acierto and Fajardo. The PNP, in turn, dismissed the policemen concerned.

But numerous questions remain. How about the district collectors and section chiefs (including X-ray) at MICT or the Port of Manila where the shabu shipments passed through?

Also, informed sources confirm that Guban collected “tara” on behalf of all these officials under Lapeña’s watch.

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I hope Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez will conduct no-nonsense “lifestyle checks” on people close to Lapeña, as some have partnered with corrupt port officers in issuing “numerous shakedown alerts” in exchange for millions of pesos daily.

If the President was able to clean up Boracay in six months, it’s about time we did the same at the BOC.

Please e-mail your comments to [email protected]

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, Eduardo Acierto, Isidro Lapeña, Ismael Fajardo, Jake J. Maderazao, Nicanor Faeldon, Rey Leonardo Guerrero, shabu shipment, Sharp Edges
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