Reyes ordered to abolish ASTF
- Marichu A. Villanueva () - August 20, 2004 - 12:00am
CEBU CITY - President Arroyo ordered yesterday Interior and Local Government Secretary Angelo Reyes to abolish the Anti-Smuggling Task Force and transfer its powers and functions to newly appointed Customs Commissioner George Jereos.

Mrs. Arroyo also directed Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong to get to the bottom of the perceived bungling of the tax credit scam cases, which were dismissed by the courts due to the reported failure of state prosecutors to indict the accused firms.

The tax scam resulted in a revenue loss of more than P1 billion in income for the deficit-strapped government.

The President issued the twin directives after she officially announced the appointment of Jereos as new Customs commissioner to take the place of Commissioner Antonio Bernardo at the end of the latter’s two-week official leave.

"That’s why I told Secretary Reyes to dismantle the anti-smuggling task force so that Commissioner Jereos would have the authority and corresponding responsibility to run after these smugglers," Mrs. Arroyo pointed out.

Jereos, who is retiring in seven months when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 65, said he has been in public service for the past 36 years and rose through the ranks in the Bureau of Customs. Prior to his promotion, Jereos was deputy commissioner for assessment and collection.

The President specifically instructed her new Customs chief to run after sugar smugglers upon receiving rampant reports of their alleged illegal activities that circumvent her efforts to regulate the importation of sugar.

She confirmed that she is now also in the process of finalizing an executive order that will clamp down on the importation of used or second-hand imported Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) through the freeport in Subic and Clark, resulting in revenue leakages.

Mrs. Arroyo particularly expressed alarm over the public’s perception that state prosecutors handling the tax credit cases filed by the BOC were dismissed by the courts due to lack of evidence and supposed lack of interest of the government to prosecute them.

The President said she has already asked her finance chief, as the immediate supervisor of the BOC, to complain about the handling of the cases by state prosecutors.

"You have to do something about this because the perception is that we lost ... because the special prosecutors threw away these cases," she told Amatong.

She issued the orders as both opposition and pro-administration lawmakers cited the tax credit scam cases that were lost in courts to justify their non-support for the proposed eight tax bills to realize an estimated P80 billion additional revenue for the government and another P20 billion for plugging revenue leakages.

"If we don’t pass these tax bills quickly to raise additional revenues, we would have a collapsed economy. The horse is dead by the time the grasses grow," the President warned.

ANTI-SMUGGLING TASK FORCE BUREAU OF CUSTOMS COMMISSIONER ANTONIO BERNARDO COMMISSIONER JEREOS CUSTOMS COMMISSIONER GEORGE JEREOS FINANCE SECRETARY JUANITA AMATONG INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SECRETARY ANGELO REYES JEREOS MRS. ARROYO PRESIDENT ARROYO SECRETARY REYES
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