BOC brokers cry foul over corruption tag
MANILA, Philippines–A group of brokers have expressed disappointment that President Rodrigo Duterte has singled them out as the source of corruption at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) when the government’s crackdown should be focused on the fixers and the people backing them.
The Chamber of Customs Brokers Inc. (CCBI) said they were “disheartened and demoralized” that they were the ones being blamed for the decadeslong corruption in the BOC when, in fact, they had everything to lose should their license be revoked once they got involved in an anomaly.
‘We are professionals’
“We are not the major source of corruption. We are professionals. I believe [President Duterte] is referring to the financiers, players, fixers, not the brokers. There are those in the BOC passing themselves off as brokers. Taguba is a good example and there are a lot of Taguba doing business with the BOC,” CCBI president Adones Carmona told reporters on Friday.
Carmona was referring to fixer Mark Taguba who allegedly paid off customs officials to facilitate the release of the P6.4-billion “shabu” (crystal meth) shipment in 2017.
He noted that anticorruption efforts should be focused on these fixers and their backers since they were the ones “colluding” with the BOC.
“If they can crack down on these people, maybe corruption will be lessened,” he said.
On Wednesday, Mr. Duterte said that if the government really wanted to put an end to the corruption gripping the BOC, they should then “remove the brokers.”
“Take away the brokers and you would have cut corruption overnight. On a scale of 1 to 10, maybe you have reduced corruption to about eight, eight and one half,” he said.
Carmona warned, though, that doing so would have a “chain reaction” not only on the livelihood of the around 11,900 brokers in the country but to the economy as well.
“In the CMTA (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act), we are the ones who need to attest to the accuracy of the computation of the duties and taxes. We are very confident that the importer themselves don’t want to fully [own up] to the liabilities,” he said.
According to CCBI secretary Michael Tede, then customs chief Nicanor Faeldon had already encouraged importers not to use brokers.
Audience with Duterte
But when importers asked if the BOC would help in computing their taxes and duties, Tede said a legal officer of the bureau told stakeholders that “this is why there are customs brokers because of the complexity of the computation.”
Carmona said they hoped Mr. Duterte would grant their request for an audience so that he may be better informed of the situation in the BOC.
“We should not be singled out because of the corruption in BOC. If there’s corruption in the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), will he remove the accountants? In DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), will he take out the civil engineers? That’s really unfair to the professionals that they are being blamed,” he said.
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