Customs grafters have own jargon | Inquirer News

Customs grafters have own jargon


The jargon for bribes and other illegal money-making schemes at the head office of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Manila and its 17 port-based revenue collection districts in other parts of the country is not limited to “tara” and “cinco huli, lusot veinte.”

Tara is the BOC term for grease money paid by smugglers and other unscrupulous port users to bureau personnel.


Cinco huli, lusot veinte means that for every 25 shipments of smuggled goods, five are seized while the rest are released upon payment of tara.


The bureau’s Intelligence Group (IG), however, said in a briefing paper there were more than two dozen other terms on its list.

According to the IG report, copies of which were furnished Malacañang and the Department of Finance (DOF), the jargon included the following terms:

Glossary of terms

“Baldog,” a form of extortion where money is forcibly collected from an importer even if his or her shipment’s papers are in order.

“Smiling money,” which refers to funds voluntarily given by importers and brokers to BOC frontline staff to establish goodwill or for gratitude following legal facilitation of their shipments.

“Swing,” pure smuggling in which a shipment is cleared from Customs despite the absence of import entry papers.


“Trabaho,” a smuggling activity that is either outright or technical smuggling.

“Benchmark” and “expedition,” which refer to fees paid by traders to expedite the processing of import papers and the subsequent release of their goods without the required examination.

“Lata-lata,” an arrangement in which payment of bribes is based on per container computations.

“Parking fee,” the amount paid to a BOC lawyer or investigator intended to delay action on a pending smuggling case.

“Alert me, release me,” where alert orders issued on suspected smuggled items are used to extort money from the consignees of the shipments.

“Patong,” or piggy-backing, where influential persons, including politicians or media personalities, get a share of tara by attaching their names to a shipment that require special facilitation assistance.

“Clustering,” a scheme in which a group of either smugglers or legitimate importers are assigned to certain BOC frontline personnel to expedite the collection of tara.

“Patalon,” which calls for the transfer of a set of import entry documents to a particular assessment section personnel who is in cahoots with certain smugglers.

“Timbre,” or prearranged entry of an importation that is either misdeclared or undervalued, the examination of which may lead to a seizure.

“Pindot,” an elaborate scheme of misrouting paid Customs duties and taxes where payment through a debit transaction from the consignee’s bank is made to enable the processing of the shipment. However, shortly after the shipment’s release, the transaction is canceled and the payment is not credited to the BOC’s cash collection unit but is withdrawn elsewhere.

“Patay-sindi,” the temporary activation of an expired or suspended account in the BOC’s Client Profile Registration System to enable the processing of a shipment. Upon exit from a Customs zone, the same account is promptly deactivated.

“Hatag,” the weekly payola to political patrons in exchange for getting choice assignments at the BOC.

Friday blessings

At the bureau, Fridays are called “araw ng pagpapala” (day of blessings) because tara or bribes normally change hands on the fifth working day of the week, the IG report said.

Jessie Dellosa, deputy commissioner for the Intelligence Group, reported to the Palace and the DOF that tara had become a “fact of life,” making the illegal practice “embedded in the culture” of the bureau.

“This anomaly has ingrained within the bureau a culture of indebtedness to players, smugglers, brokers and other clients, resulting in institutionalized arrangements of graft and corruption,” he said.

The collection of tara has also “emerged as a more attractive and convenient motivational incentive for frontline customs personnel,” said Dellosa, a former Armed Forces chief of staff.

Moral fiber weakened

“Other factors such as low salaries and lack of benefits like housing; the primacy of patronage in promotions and (staff) positioning vis-à-vis the remuneration quotas to recommending authorities; and the lack of legal support from the bureau for work-related cases . . . consp[ire] to weaken the morale and the moral fiber of personnel, and make them vulnerable to the temptations of unscrupulous groups and individuals,” he said.

In his report, Dellosa said “vigor and enthusiasm for strict enforcement of customs laws are also undermined by present policies that allow smugglers to redeem seized and forfeited shipments with minimal penalties involved.”

Under this scheme, smugglers have more to gain, “especially with the inclination of the collection districts to consent to settlements for sure revenues rather than have forfeited shipments exposed to pilferage in warehouses then auctioned off, which more often than not result in very low bid prices,” he said.

Dellosa noted that “the revenue collection mission of the BOC in fact fuels the tacit approval of technical smuggling.”


Corruption at Customs continues, says Lacson

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TAGS: BOC, bribery, bribes, Customs, DoF, Graft

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