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Probe urged of BOC, Navy seizures

Some members of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) reform team have urged Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and new Philippine Navy commander Rear Adm. Caesar Taccad to order “parallel investigations” into the alleged involvement of BOC and Navy personnel in the illegal seizure of nearly 90 shipments of imported goods based supposedly on an intelligence report.

The intelligence report from the Navy Intelligence and Security Group’s National Capital Region office turned out to be not only “unverified, unconfirmed and unsubstantiated” but also unauthorized by Navy headquarters.

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Worse, about 60 of the shipments were released to their consignees upon payment of “tara”—the customs term for grease money paid by traders to corrupt personnel for the prompt release of their shipments, according to BOC insiders, including three officials.

Some traders have sought the help of Deputy Commissioners Jessie Dellosa, Ariel Nepomuceno and Arturo Lachica for the release of their imported goods.

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The shipments came from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea, among other countries, and were placed on the “Special Stop” facility of the Office of the Commissioner.

BOC sources, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to speak to media, referred to the anomaly as a case of “baldog,” a form of extortion where money is collected from importers even if their papers are in order.

The sources said the trouble started on Aug. 7 when Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina received a confidential letter from Lt. Larry Necesito of the naval intelligence group’s NCR office.

In his letter, also addressed to Nepomuceno, Necesito attached the intelligence group NCR’s “summary of information on the container vans suspected of violating the Tariff and Customs Code.”

The Navy officer named the 31 exporters of the shipments. They included, among others, Volvo East Asia Ltd., Garment Town, Evernote Trade Co. Ltd., Soosan Heavy Duty Industries Co. Ltd., Yutong Hong Kong Ltd., Go-yung Inc., Wan Zhou Power Co. Ltd., Great Gentle Textile, Zhenzhen City Industry Ltd., and Ningbo Yaxiya Import and Export.

On Aug. 10, Silverio Montalbo, Lina’s chief of staff, sent a memo to Nepomuceno, deputy commissioner for the enforcement group, asking for “appropriate action” on Necesito’s letter.

Montalbo also urged Nepomuceno to issue “alert orders” and conduct “appropriate examinations” of the shipments.

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In his memo, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, Montalbo cited six shipments possibly misdeclared, undervalued or classified as regulated items.

On Aug. 11, Nepomuceno wrote Montalbo requesting for “authority to coordinate with the higher authorities of the Philippine Navy to… determine the proper protocol to be observed.”

“(This) is simply a cautionary step in view of the experience with an almost similar request from the Fair Trade Bureau, which was later disowned” by the trade department, he said.

At this writing, 29 of the 89 shipments were still being held by the bureau, according to BOC reform team members.

Necesito has expressed surprise why his Aug. 7 letter to Lina reached the commissioner.

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, Caesar Taccad, Cesar Purisima, illegal seizure, imports, investigations, Philippine Navy
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