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Athletes hired by Customs not trained on its processes and reforms

/ 06:05 PM August 07, 2017
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Kenneth Duremdes. File Photo

Athletes hired by the Bureau of Customs have admitted that they were not even briefed about the basics of the agency’s procedures, despite being paid a monthly salary of P40,000 as part of its image-building efforts.

“We were not trained. Our function is more on the image-building of Customs,” basketball player Kenneth Duremdes said on Monday as the House of Representatives’ dangerous drugs committee investigated the anomalies hounding the revenue agency.

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The retired Philippine Basketball Association player answered in the negative when Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, a former Customs commissioner himself, grilled him if he knew how the agency works, and what the procedures are in clearing cargo and dealing with balikbayan boxes.

Asked by Biazon how exactly athletes help improve the notorious agency’s image, Duremdes said: “Since we were national players in the past and the mere fact that we go to certain places, it’s easier to talk to the public especially when basketball is the venue.”

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“We just give out information about the reforms of the Bureau. Like, for example, the BOC is serious in its anticorruption reforms,” he said.

Yet, he could not name any specific programs when asked by Biazon. “We do some community work, relaying to the public that somehow, there are changes in the Bureau,” he said.

Edward Joseph Feihl echoed Duremdes’s statement and said he did not know the meaning of terms such as “hao shiao,” which refer to non-organic persons taken by some BOC personnel under their wings to do their functions.

Feihl’s job description is as “technical assistant for special activities of the Office of the Commissioner,” even as the athletes were ostensibly hired for “intelligence.”

He admitted that he had not yet contributed intelligence information to the BOC, when asked by Quezon City 2nd Dist. Rep. Winston Castelo.

Asked to justify the government’s pay for his work, Feihl said: “We belong to the basketball team. We conduct basketball trainings.”

Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon’s chief of staff Mandy Therese Anderson admitted that the athletes “were hired by the commissioner himself.” She later said she “actually manifested my objection regarding the hiring of the athletes” at first.

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Still, she told lawmakers to “differentiate the kind of intelligence work they perform.”

“One is regarding smuggling, which they’re not qualified to do. Another is regarding feedback from people on what they want Customs to do,” she said.

Anderson became controversial after accusing Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on July 27 of forcing the BOC to permanently appoint acting Customs Operation Officer Sandy Sacluti at the Formal Entry Division of the Port of Manila. The day before, she was chewed out by Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas for calling Alvarez an “imbecile” in her privately-set rant on Facebook.

Asked by Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia if this issue would also get a rise out of her, Anderson stood by Faeldon’s decision and replied: “Having understood the purpose, no, it would not.”

For his part, Leyte 3rd Dist. Rep. Vicente Veloso, a retired Court of Appeals justice, said the players might be held liable for misappropriation in conspiracy with the Customs officials for receiving the salaries.

“You’re the ones given the salaries. You would be guilty by direct participation or indispensable cooperation,” he warned.

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, drug smuggling scandal, Kenneth Duremdes
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