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BOC section chiefs face relief over ‘tara’

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña yesterday said based on information he received, corruption is still prevalent in the assessment division which comprises appraisers and examiners. File

MANILA, Philippines — Around 90 percent of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Assessment Division’s section chiefs are set to be relieved starting Monday in a bid to stop the proliferation of the “tara” (grease money) system.

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña yesterday said based on information he received, corruption is still prevalent in the assessment division which comprises appraisers and examiners.

“I am still waiting for the verification or validation of information. We would be removing people… I am referring to the heads since they are the responsible people in those sections of assessment,” said Lapeña.

He said he might remove the division’s section chiefs by Oct. 2, starting with those assigned at two premier ports – the Manila International Container Port and the Port of Manila, the biggest revenue collecting ports. 

He added that the relief of most of the section chiefs would serve as “fair warning to those receiving tara. I will remove first the chiefs of the sections who have been identified.”

While they have reduced the incidents of tara in the BOC, they have learned that some of the employees in the assessment division still engage in “benchmarking” or fees paid by traders to expedite the processing of import papers and release of their goods without the required examination, Lapeña said.

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“If the (section) chief is engaged in this illegality, most likely the subordinates are also involved. It will be the chief that dictates,” he said.

The BOC chief disclosed that he would appoint deputies of assessment sections to replace those relieved.

If the deputies would perform better than the section chief, Lapeña said he would let them occupy their positions permanently.

Since they are following due process, erring section chiefs will only be removed from their posts. But if there is enough basis to impose disciplinary action against them, they would be dismissed from the service, he said. 

He explained that replacing the section heads would not affect the BOC’s operations since the deputies are expected to be just as knowledgeable as their chiefs.

“We are replacing the chiefs because there is a problem and it is affecting the revenue collection. This should be a wake-up call to them. They should follow (the law) because that is good for government and for all of us. We would be able to erase the bad image of tara of the bureau and its personnel,” he said.

He explained that most BOC personnel are not corrupt and that “there is a good chance that the good image of the bureau will be restored.”

Lacson sues Faeldon

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday filed criminal and administrative complaints against resigned Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon for allegedly allowing the release of P34.043 million worth of smuggled Vietnamese white rice from Cagayan de Oro Port early this year.

In a 39-page complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Lacson said Faeldon must be investigated for administrative offense of grave misconduct and for criminal offenses of violation of Republic Act 3019 – the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act – and economic sabotage for large-scale rice smuggling under RA10845.

Economic sabotage under RA 10845 is a non-bailable offense.

Also named respondents in the complaint were National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Jason Aquino, Cagayan de Oro Port former district collector Tomas Alcid, Customs liaison officer to NFA Geniefelle Lagmay as well as officials of rice importer Cebu Lite Trading Inc. (CLTI) – Filomena Lim, Lucio Roger Lim Jr., Rowena Lim, Joselito Lopez, Josephine Rizalde and Ambrosio Ursal Jr.

Lascon asked the ombudsman to place Aquino, Alcid and Lagmay under preventive suspension while the complaint is being investigated.

In his complaint, he said Faeldon, in conspiracy with Aquino, Alcid and Lagmay, allowed the release from Cagayan de Oro of two shipments of Vietnamese long grain white rice imported by the CLTI on March 9.

The rice shipments, totaling 40,000 bags, were supposedly released in June despite CLTI’s lack of valid import permit and amid existing Orders of Abandonment of Shipment issued by Alcid’s office.

“In both rice shipments consigned to CLTI, there was a failure to file the corresponding import entries within the 15-day prescriptive period provided under Section 407 of (RA 10863), otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act,” the complaint read.

Lacson said since the rice shipments were ordered abandoned, they effectively became government property.

“The subject shipments released to CLTI were considered property of the Republic of the Philippines because of the abandonment orders issued, and since there was no showing that CLTI exerted effort to first cause the lifting of orders of abandonment, the rice contained in the two shipments are, by operation of law, forfeited in favor of the government,” the complaint read.

Lacson alleged that the CLTI paid the BOC on June 23 a total of P14.279 million for the release of the two shipments. – With Elizabeth Marcelo

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