Miriam blasts ‘thieves’ in Bureau of Customs
MANILA – Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Monday said embattled Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief Alberto Lina should explain what his office has done against thieves in the agency who ransack shipments.
Santiago has filed Senate Resolution No. 1534 seeking an investigation on the BOC’s plan to thoroughly inspect and impose taxes on balikbayan boxes sent by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“It is one thing to inspect balikbayan boxes, another to desecrate them. The Bureau of Customs seems aware that balikbayan boxes, when opened by their personnel, are sometimes pillaged. What have officials done to rid their ranks of thieves?” she said in a statement.
Santiago said she filed the resolution in response to some 78,000 Filipinos who asked her via online petition platform Change.org to stop the BOC’s plan.
“Whether they accept it or not, the sad reality is that Customs personnel don’t particularly enjoy the public’s trust. You cannot blame OFWs for doubting the renewed vigor of Customs inspectors when it comes to balikbayan boxes,” she said.
The BOC got the worst rating of minus 63 or “very bad” in the 2013 SWS Survey of Enterprises on Corruption.
The bureau also ranked as third worst-performing agency from July 2014 to July 2015, in a Makati Business Club survey.
Lina earlier said the BOC will open balikbayan boxes, which he claimed are being used to bring smuggled goods into the country.
In an interview with ANC Monday, Lina defended his plan to open balikbayan boxes, saying the bureau is mandated to prevent the entry of contraband items as well as assess the value of items that need to be taxed.
He said balikbayan boxes are packages brought by overseas Filipinos returning to the Philippines while care packages sent by migrant Filipinos abroad should be considered “shopping boxes.”
He said overseas Filipinos returning to the country are given tax exemptions for items with value of up to P10,000, based on a presidential decree issued by then President Fidel Ramos.
Every item sent via padala package is taxable, he added.
Santiago said that instead of rummaging through OFWs’ care packages sent to their families, the BOC should instead improve its facilities and equipment, such as use X-ray machines and other technologies.
The agency reportedly acquired some 30 X-ray machines to be used in seaports in 2006, and in 2013 sought contractors that will provide 20 X-ray machines for airports.