Duterte slams BoC for desecrating Balikbayan boxes, milking OFWs
DAVAO CITY — An angry Mayor Rodrigo Duterte slammed the Bureau of Customs (BoC) for prying into Balikbayan boxes just to “milk” overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) of cash.
“Those Balikbayan boxes are sacred. They are an expression of love and affection. Nobody should be allowed to make a mockery of this sentimental bond between an OFW and his family back home,” Duterte said.
Duterte said that every little thing inside a balikbayan box was a fruit of months of savings and hard work and prying through it is callous and insensitive.
“Alam ba ng mga taga Customs na pati ang pag-arrange ng mga pasalubong ay may emotional meaning?” he asked.
Duterte acknowledged that balikbayan boxes could be used to skip taxes but the BoC’s move was not the solution.
“Indeed, this privilege is subject to abuse by people who use it to smuggle dutiable items but there are other ways to address this problem,” Duterte said.
The mayor said BoC Commissioner Alberto Lina, who owns Air21, was aware that forwarding companies could enforce mechanism against this.
“Commissioner (Alberto) Lina, who owns a forwarding company, knows pretty well that the safeguards could be implemented by the forwarding companies from the points of shipment,” Duterte said.
Lina earlier said that he already sold his shares in the company and ensured that he would have no conflict of interest as BoC commissioner.
Respecting the responsibility and mandate of the BoC, Duterte said the agency should be more sensitive in whatever action they do because they must consider the feelings of OFWs who are even considered as modern day heroes.
“There are more sophisticated ways of checking illegal activities exploiting the Balikbayan Box system. The OFWs should not be made to suffer for the incompetence of people at the Bureau of Customs,” Duterte said.
“People should not be made to suffer when dumb persons run government,” Duterte added.
The mayor criticized the BOC for being harsh on small boxes sent by OFWs while they are toothless against big and organized smuggling activities.
“They failed in stopping the smuggling of rice, pork meat, chicken, garlic and onions, why don’t they address these problems first?” Duterte said.
Instead of making OFWs suffer, the government should focus in protecting the rights of every Filipino working outside the country, Duterte said.
“Let’s put an end to the exploitation of these people who have sacrificed a lot working away from their families just to secure a better future for their children,” the mayor said.
And this exploitation, Duterte said, includes the money-making schemes enforced by the government.
“They are asked to pay so many fees just to work abroad and they are required to get licenses and permits,” he said.
“And when they come home, they are being shortchanged at the airports and robbed by taxi drivers and even ‘kotong’ cops,” Duterte added.
The tough-talking mayor said that the government must also recognize and act on the cases of exploitation abroad where many Filipino workers were forced to work long hours and were subjected to many abuses most especially the women.
“Gobyerno na ang nagkulang tapos ngayon gobyerno pa rin ang lumalabas na nanggigipit sa kanila,” (Government has been remiss and now government is the one harassing them) Duterte said.
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