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Customs purges bogus mediamen

From 300, ‘only’ 96 now accredited

With nearly 100 media persons supposedly keeping watch on its operations, the Bureau of Customs is undoubtedly the country’s “most covered” government agency.

During the Arroyo administration, more than 300 accredited reporters covered the BOC, an attached agency of the Department of Finance.

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The number was trimmed down to around 120 when Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon took over in September 2011.

In a 58-page performance report released last week, Biazon said he had trimmed it down further to 96.

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The former Muntinlupa City representative pointed out that under its “media reform” program, the BOC would continue to ferret out so-called “hao-siao” or fly-by-night journalists covering the agency.

Media men of dubious affiliations have long been suspected in the bureau of serving as fixers, middlemen or public relations agents for smugglers and unscrupulous BOC personnel.

Biazon noted that in 2012, the bureau took “another big step to introduce order and clean up the Bureau of Customs with the review and tightening of the media accreditation process.”

The BOC Public Information and Assistance Division (PIAD), he said, “revised the guidelines and procedures for media accreditation so that only reporters assigned by legitimate media organizations will be able to cover the Customs beat.”

The move reduced their number to 96, representing 40 media outlets, he said.

Two groups—the Customs Media Association and the Customs Trimedia Association—earlier questioned Biazon’s media accreditation policy before the Supreme Court, saying it curtailed press freedom. But the high tribunal has yet to issue a temporary restraining order.

Sought for comment, National Press Club president Benny Antiporda said the BOC was “doing the right thing.”

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“We’re aware that there are some people who pose as media practitioners and engage in illegal activities at the Bureau of Customs,” Antiporda said. ‘’These fake journalists give the media a bad name.”

The NPC official expressed willingness to assist the BOC in its campaign to weed out fake journalists, saying “we know who’s fake and who’s real and legitimate.”

But Antiporda cautioned the BOC against using its media reform program to harass legitimate reporters who expose anomalies in the agency. If that happens, he said, the bureau “will definitely draw the NPC’s condemnation.”

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TAGS: “hao-siao”, Arroyo administration, Bureau of Customs, Department of Finance, fly-by-night journalists, Ruffy Biazon
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