Who’s ‘hao-siao’ or legit journalist? BOC confused
Believe it or not, but this reporter was mistaken by the blue guards of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for one of the many “hao-siao,” or bogus journalists, stalking the premises of the agency.
This reporter had gone to the BOC complex to attend Monday’s media forum but was told that the Inquirer was not on the list of accredited media outfits, and refused entry.
On a list prepared by the BOC’s public information and assistance division and posted at the main Customs gate were the names of nearly 100 media people, including some said to be hao-siao. The Inquirer had been covering the BOC beat for years.
A BOC lawyer, one of several customs personnel manning the gate, interceded and let me pass so I could attend the Kapihan media forum.
When contacted, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon pointed out it was “Day 1 of the strict implementation of the bureau’s policy against hao-siao reporters.”
“It’s part of the organizational reform we’re doing. There will be birth pains at the start but in the end, it will be good for the bureau,” he said.
Media men of dubious affiliations have long been suspected in the bureau of serving as fixers, middlemen or public relations agents of smugglers and unscrupulous BOC personnel. They have come to be known as hao-siao journalists.
In a text message, Biazon said he had created a task force to go after the hao-siao.
“The principal targets of our antihao-siao policy are those who interfere or participate in key sensitive functions that are supposed to be handled only by organic personnel, such as cargo clearance operations,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner Danilo Lim said he would bring the Inquirer’s concerns to George Aliño, a retired police general who heads the bureau’s enforcement and security services.
At the media forum, Biazon vowed to “pursue this initiative (against the hao-siao people) until we see its positive effects.”
“It’s a festering problem that’s been here for quite some,” he said.
Work in progress
According to Biazon, “there is no official definition of hao-siao, but as we all know, they are those not employed by the bureau but are doing the functions” of customs personnel.
During the Arroyo administration, more than 300 reporters were accredited to cover the BOC. The number was trimmed down to around 120 when Biazon took over in September 2011. Last year, he reduced the number to 96.
Earlier, Biazon said the bureau would cut the number further.
Biazon said the BOC had “implemented an accreditation system to ensure that the media covering the bureau belong to legitimate news outfits, not rumor mills and tools for harassment.”
“Admittedly, it is still a work in progress,” he said.
‘Attack ’N Collect’
In a recent blog on the Internet, Biazon referred to what he called the “ANC media” as one of the challenges preventing the bureau from being a reformed agency.
“And I’m not referring to the ABS-CBN News Channel. I’m referring to the Attack ’N Collect media,” he added.
In a performance report in early April, Biazon said that in 2012, the bureau took “another big step to introduce order and clean up the Bureau of Customs with [the] tightening up of the media accreditation process.”
BOC Press Corps president Chito Junia, a reporter-columnist of the weekly tabloid “Opinyon,” said he had “been getting a lot of heat lately from some hao-siao.”
“Clearly, they were affected by the ongoing review and tightening of the BOC media accreditation process, which unfortunately was abused during the previous administrations,” Junia said. “They are fighting back in an attempt to save not their journalism careers but their money-making ventures.”