Anti-corruption groups urge Aquino to appoint new customs commissioner | Inquirer News

Anti-corruption groups urge Aquino to appoint new customs commissioner

/ 09:08 AM June 18, 2011

DAVAO CITY –- Anti-corruption groups are calling on President Benigno Aquino III to appoint a new customs commissioner as they defended the journalist criticized for his series of reports on the alleged smuggling at the Davao port of the Bureau of Customs.

The groups, which include the People Power Volunteers for Reform (PPRV), the People’s Action Against Corruption (PAAC) and the Ehem Anti-Corruption Program, among others also called on the President to re-install the operation of the country’s first container yard outside custom’s zone as a way to fight corruption.

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“We thank the customs collectors for giving us this opportunity to clarify issues and offer solutions,” said a statement by the group in reply to the June 2 paid advertisement by the Customs Collectors Association of the Philippines (CCAP) castigating Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent Jeffrey
Tupas.

“Jeffrey Tupas is not the enemy,” the anti-corruption groups said.

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“He [Tupas] should not be vilified. He should be praised for telling the truth,” said the statement signed by Benjamin Lizada of the PPRV in the region, Ednar Dayanghirang of PPRV in Davao City, Mussolini Lidasan, lead convenor of the People’s Movement Against Corruption, Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, who leads the country’s Ehem Anti Corruption Program and six others.

The groups called on the President to reinstate the memorandum of agreement between the BoC and Aquarius Container Yard (ACY) rescinded by Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, upon the recommendation of Davao City customs official who said that ACY owner and operator Rodolfo Reta had refused to render service.

“Why would Rodolfo Reta refuse to render service when it was his source of living?” the groups asked.

“The truth is, the Arroyo administration canceled the MOA because Reta discovered and reported to [District Collector Anju] Castigador that 40 vans of rice were misdeclared.

The groups said that the shipment of smuggled rice was cleared by the BoC for release and already had a gatepass signed by BoC’s Alicodsaman Dimancisil “even before it was physically examined.”

The groups reiterated that upon examination, the x-rays showed sacks of rice, not construction fillings as declared.

“When ACY Lawyer Manuel Quibod reported this to Castigador, the latter closed the ACY instead of investigating the report,” the statement said.

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PAAC also refuted the custom collectors’ statement that the government earned P12.8 million when the seized items were auctioned.

“We do not dispute the fact that the seized rice was auctioned off but we contend that the government stands to earn more if the proper taxes on imports are collected,” the statement said.

They also pointed out how BoC insisted they could not locate the identity of the people behind the Rapzel General Merchandise and the failure of BoC to summon the company’s broker named Michael Corong for an investigation.

“As to the seized rice, what happened after the auction? Who bought the rice? The BoC knew the importer but said they could not locate the people behind the company,” the statement said.

The groups also cited a March 2, 2010 letter from Corong, expressing “support for Castigador, the very person who seized and auctioned off his shipment.”

The groups offered a number of solutions, among them an appointment of the new customs commissioner and a clean-up of the BoC and the re-installation of container terminals outside of customs zone as a way to combat corruption.

To perfect the system that will minimize smuggling within the BoC ports, the groups proposed that a citizens’ watch group should be tasked to look into the operation of container yards outside the
customs zone (CYOCZs) and that CYOCZs should report directly to the BoC in Manila for the anomalies discovered in local ports.

The group also proposed that CYOCZ operators who were service providers in the area should be chosen to prevent individual or groups from monopolizing all CYOCZs.

“Mr. President, we want you to succeed, so, we are not just raising an issue, we are offering a solution,” the statement said.

“Smuggling in the Bureau of Customs is staggering and that everyone knows that for it to thrive, it must be protected by people in power. Do not be afraid to do the right thing, Mr. President, we will support you,” the group said.

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TAGS: Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, Bureau of Customs, customs commissioner, Graft and Corruption, Jeffrey Tupas, Journalist, Media, Politics
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