Senators grill BOC execs over loopholes in anti-agri smuggling efforts
MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Thursday pointed out gaps in the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) assessment of smuggled agricultural goods, mostly due to the fact that the value is determined by Customs officials.
For the smuggled agricultural goods to fall under the penalty of economic sabotage as prescribed in the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, the confiscated goods must be valued at least P1,000,000 by the BOC.
However, when Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, one of the law’s authors, asked how the value of the smuggled agricultural goods are determined, BOC Post Clearance Audit Group Assistant Commissioner Vincent Maronilla said that it is determined upon the discretion of Customs officials.
“Kapag nagsabwatan yung nagbebenta at yung ating bumibili dito at sinabing ‘ito talaga yung benta ko dito’ at mababa, ay maaari pong loophole iyon. Kung mayroon tayong batas na nagse-set, regardless of that, for purposes of filing a criminal case, ang sine-set ng batas ay itong value na ito, mas mawawalan po ng discretion yung mga tao. Alam naman po natin, kung may discretion, napakalaking loophole po non,” said Maronilla.
(If there is collusion between the seller and the buyer here and they said, “this is how much I will sell it,” that could be a loophole. If we could set a law, regardless of that, for purposes of filing a case, that this is the value, then the people will no longer have discretion. We know that if there is discretion, that is a large loophole.)
However, Sen. Cynthia Villar, another author of the anti-agri smuggling law, countered this, saying that the BOC has been asked to implement the National Single Window System.
“Kayo, matagal na kayo sinasabihan to implement the National Single Window System na lahat compuertized,” Villar said.
(You, you have long been told to implement the National Single Window System so that everything is computerized.)
She said this would remove the BOC’s discretionary powers.
“Alam niyo, pag hindi niyo ginagawa yan, alam na ayaw niyo tumulong kasi gusto niyo gumawa ng pera diyan. Nagkahiyaan pa tayo,” she added.
(You know, if you do not do it, it would be known that you do not want to help because you want to make money there. Let’s not shy around.)
Maronilla explained that the implementation of the National Single Window System was stalled due to a case in 2014, however, he did not specify what the case was or what its status is.