Lacson blames Customs for imported trash, drug smuggling

Lacson blames Customs for imported trash, drug smuggling
Sen. Panfilo Lacson delivers a privilege speech titled "What a Mess: A Dumping Ground of Garbage and Drugs."
The STAR / Mong Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday criticized the Bureau of Customs for allegedly failing its mandate as the "gatekeeper of our borders" amid reports of massive shipments of garbage and illegal drugs slipping into the Philippines.

In a privilege speech delivered Wednesday, the senator noted that despite changes in the leaderships of the agency, schemes of illegal drugs smuggling have been present.

"To say that our country is treated like trash appears to be true, as in literally, amid news reports of tons of waste being illegally shipped into our lands, no thanks to local and foreign smugglers, unscrupulous Customs brokers and corrupt Customs officials," Lacson said in his speech.

Hundreds of containers of plastic waste from Canada, falsely labeled as plastics for recycling, were shipped to the Philippines from 2013 to 2014. These are scheduled to be shipped back to Ottawa on Thursday.

RELATED: DFA chief takes swipe at Bureau of Customs

South Korea also exported 51 containers of garbage in 2018 while 25 tons of electronic and residual waste from Hong Kong arrived in Misamis Oriental earlier this year. There has also been a shipment of container vans of shredded municipal waste from Australia.

"Unfortunately for us, shipments of foreign refuse are not the only 'garbage' that continue to permeate and pollute our country," the senator said.

Lacson noted that aside from shipments of trash, illegal drugs have also entered the country.

In May 2017, P6.4 billion worth of shabu were recovered in Valenzuela City while in August 2018, P4 billion worth of shabu were also discovered at the Manila International Container Port. Four magnetic lifters with high-grade shabu estimated at P6.8 billion were also found at an warehouse in Cavite.

Just last week, 146 kilograms of shabu and 114 bags of aluminum pallets and tapioca starch were seized in an operation in Malabon.

RELATED: Duterte appoints dismissed Manila port official, 2 others to Customs

'Guerrero untainted by corruption'

In August 2017, Lacson bared the "Tara" list, naming alleged bribe givers or "players" and collectors or bagmen at the Customs.

Lacson accused then Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon of being aware of the so-called "Tara" system in the agency.

Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Faeldon's succesor, however, remains untainted by corruption, Lacson said.

"But while he has reportedly managed to maintain his integrity intact, his leadership is challenged by his apparent failure to exact the same level of honesty and integrity from his subordinates, which true and real leadership is all about," he said.

Lacson said that, according to his sources, Customs departments and sections contunue to take their "Tara" per container "for the Office of the Commissioner, an average of P5,000 per container plus 10% of the collections of each section/office directly under OCOM; P3,000 for Intelligence Group; P1,000 to P2,000 for the Enforcement Group; P3,000 for the Risk Management Office; and P2,000 to P3,000 for the Import and Assessment Service,"

Lacson asked how the Customs bureau could address the drug problem if the administration rewards people with positions in the government rather than punishing the corrupt or incompetent.

"When we tolerate corruption and its perpetrators in the institution, reward incompetence rather than weed out the roots that breed it; the public will start to believe it is a given and Customs officials will start to believe it is a routine," he said.

Following this revelation, Lacson challenged Guerrero to uphold his integrity and moral principles as a test of character.

The senator pointed out that some of Guerrero's subordinates in the agency are "afflicted with severely debilitated credibility."

"The test of your leadership, on the other hand, is how your integrity and principles resound in the halls of your office and influence the actions and behavior of your subalterns. To fail in one is to fail in both," Lacson said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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