October 17, 2017, 6:00 am
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House panel eyes Customs revamp

QUIRINO Rep. Dakila Cua, chair of the House committee on ways and means, yesterday said the panel is looking to revamp the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and abolish its Command Center (ComCen), which is part of the “corrupt system.”

Cua said the BOC must be overhauled or revamped and the House panel may recommend that the ComCen, which was formed by Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, be dissolved after it failed to stop the entry of P6.4 billion worth of shabu last May 23.

“So as you have the Command Center, it is still prone to corruption. If that’s the case, it only means that somebody in the Command Center is part of the corrupt system,” he told dzBB.

Cua said the revamp is still needed even if two officials – Director Milo Maestrecampo of the Import Assessment Service (IAS) and Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service chief Neil Estrella  - have already resigned.

Cua said while Faeldon centralizes the control of the BOC through the ComCen, its failure to detect and stop the shipment of illegal drugs only shows that its creation only weakened the BOC’s system.

Cua said Faeldon’s creation of the ComCen removed the checks and balances in the bureau’s system, which was provided for under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

“So that’s one very glaring mistake. I think the operation of the ComCen was a failure,” he said.

The ComCen, which was created under Customs Special Order 45-2016 and was signed by Commissioner Faeldon, is composed of different bureau officials to whom the powers of the commissioner are delegated.

The drug shipment passed through the “green” lane or express lane of the Bureau’s selectivity system even if EMT Trading was just a new importer.

Shipments that pass through the green lane no longer need to undergo inspection and document verification.

Broker-importer Mark Taguba II earlier revealed that he has been paying “tara” or grease money to some Customs officials in exchange for waiving inspections and to expedite his shipments.

Taguba on Monday said the Customs officials who received bribe money from him include Maestrecampo, intelligence officer Teddy Sagaral of the Manila International Container Port (MCIP) Service, Customs deputy commissioner Teddy Raval, and Manila International Container Port (MCIP) district collector Vincent Philip Maronilla.

Taguba has, however, denied repeatedly that he knew that the May 23 shipment from China, which was seized at the Hongfei Warehouse in Valenzuela City last May 26, contained illegal drugs.

The owner of the warehouse, Richard Tan, is still detained in the Senate for contempt after evading questions last Wednesday.

Cua said Taguba has also told his panel last week that he is given tariff codes that he needs to input in the system for his shipments to pass through the green lane.

“That only means that someone is manipulating the system,” he said. “That means no one can manipulate it but people who are from the inside.”

Cua said Customs officials, including Estrella and Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala, have admitted that they believe that corruption remains widespread in the BOC “which only means that the ComCen was not effective.”

Lawyer Larribert Hilario, the former acting head of the customs Risk Management Office who was “verbally” suspended by Faeldon, earlier said the whole mess could have been prevented had the IAS provided him the list of importers who were newly accredited from December 2016 to May 2017.

He said he could have entered the data into the system and easily flagged its shipments for being suspicious.

It turned out EMT Trading applied for import accreditation only last January, Hilario told lawmakers last week.
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