‘Hostile takeover 101’

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Never come between a sabungero and his chickens or there will be hell to pay!

Early this week, many game fowl breeders, registered farm owners, including a former undersecretary and a PNP official, experienced what it’s like to become collateral damage from the “hostile takeover attempt” of local hustlers wanting to grab the shipping and handling business of game fowls from a respected US service provider.

Upon claiming their respective roosters and hens, the importers learned that all of their chickens were detained at a NAIA warehouse and different requirements were being asked from the shipping representative by the piece meal. BAI representatives imposed new requirements one after the other, something that never used to happen.

In a text sent out to Senator Cynthia Villar, a top official of the PNP, as well as members of the media and a former undersecretary, described the experience as a course on “Hostile Takeover 101” step by step.

Step 1: A high ranking official of the Bureau of Customs is enlisted by a BAI insider to call a “Brod” in PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) to report that a shipment of chickens arriving Monday evening Feb. 19 might have drugs. The report was a bum report because there was no shipment of live birds on said date.

The chickens arrived Tuesday and K-9s were again sent to go through the shipping boxes and live animals. The dogs did not detect or sniff any drugs and it turned out to be a waste of time and resources for the PDEA.

The tipster from the BOC failed to consider that a bum tip is a criminal offense and waste of government assets. Once under investigation, let’s say by the Senate or in court, the PDEA must reveal the tipster from the BOC and the basis for determining the tip to be legitimate. Making such a false report can also qualify as false imputation of a crime on an innocent party, such as the shipper and importers of the chickens.

Step 2: Ask for “original documentation” that are in the US, even if the exact same copy of documents was already provided to the BAI.

In the meantime, spend hours “looking” for documents that were already submitted several days earlier (five days, according to statement of shipping rep); misplacing or mishandling such vital documents qualifies as administrative negligence.

Step 3: Throw in a new requirement: a) Ask for the names and contact details of the actual suppliers/breeders/farm owners who sold the chickens that were shipped to the Philippines. b) Ask vendors/breeders to certify they are the actual sellers. There’s an 8- to 12-hour time difference between Manila and the US, it is the dead of winter. Excellent delaying tactic.

Step 4: Leave instructions that no one will follow, then get out of town.

The acting/OIC director Enrico Capulong, who happens to be a temporary or a fill-in until the new and official BAI director assumes office, reportedly gave instructions that once the certificate of origin was provided, the chickens should be released. After that, Capulong reportedly left for Bacolod City to attend the national convention of veterinarians, leaving all 400 chickens, owner/importers and BAI underlings to argue.

Without their acting “Chief,” the “Indians” refused to release the chickens and instead hauled them off to the holding facility of BAI in Quezon City. That might technically be an illegal or arbitrary confiscation since documents were provided, and an order given to release once documents were confirmed. Who gave the order to confiscate, transport and quarantine the chickens?

Those chickens flew about 10 hours, transitioned from winter to full summer in boxes placed in the NAIA warehouse parking, then another one-hour drive to BAI in QC, etc. According to the PNP officer whose two brood cocks were also in the shipment, at least two chickens from the batch had died. Who pays for the losses and damages?

Step 5: Draw random blood samples from the bird for compliance and show legitimacy of action. The tests all came out negative.

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Since the 1970s, one of the biggest side hustles of BAI personnel is livestock quarantine. The BAI does not have, and never had, a proper quarantine area at NAIA, and it was a “feed your own pets policy.” In addition, you had to “tip” a security guard or a BAI clerk to keep an eye on your chickens, so no one steals or switches your birds.

Another excuse that BAI personnel uses is that they are merely preventing the spread of avian influenza or bird flu. I have interviewed officials of the Department of Agriculture and the BAI and the reported cases they shared were among ducks, quails and commercial poultry and the rare case of migratory birds.

Many veterinarians I know have not heard of any case coming from game farms because these farms practice rigid vaccination schedules quarterly, annually or semi-annually because the game fowls are too expensive, and vaccination is so cheap. Instead of harassing importers and breeders, the BAI should revive their vaccination production and programs!

The allegations of disease prevention is easily challenged because anyone familiar with livestock sale and movement of hogs, cows and poultry knows that there is a global watch and alert system that warns member-countries about bird flu, mad cow, ASF, etc. The system is so strict that local farmers and corporations abroad are strictly required to report any single case or lose their vet license or business.

Whether it’s the hostile takeover of “Mutt & Jeff” or BAI officials trying to get two minutes of fame to impress Secretary Kiko Laurel to get a promotion, the whole incident has backfired largely on the BAI and indirectly on Secretary Laurel. Sometime today, a complaint will be filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, the Senate, maybe even with the endorsers of the BOC official.

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E-mail: [email protected]

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