By Rina Jimenez-David
Perhaps the most precarious position in government is that of a Customs commissioner. Certainly, it is one of the most controversial.
By Peter Wallace
How can Commissioner Ruffy Biazon get anything done when the courts stop him? Whose side is the judiciary on? Everyone, but everyone, agrees that the Bureau of Customs is the most corrupt government agency. Cleaning it up requires dramatic, courageous action. The courts should keep their hands off.
By Neal H. Cruz
The government raised the excise tax on cigarettes to increase tax collection and, allegedly, to force smokers to quit or at least smoke less. With the price of cigarettes sky-high because of the higher taxes, the government reasoned out, smokers would either smoke less or quit smoking completely, thus saving themselves from the ravages of lung cancer, emphysema and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), all of which can be fatal.
This could be a piece of unsolicited advice to our beloved President Aquino.
The harsh words were President Benigno Aquino III’s. “It’s like the Bureau of Customs is competing to be incompetent,” he said in his fourth State of the Nation Address. “Instead of collecting the right taxes and stopping contraband, it seems they [Customs personnel] are ceaselessly letting trade slip through, as well as illegal drugs, arms and other such into our territory.” The question is: Is the President now open to the trial balloon Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon floated last April, that of abolishing the bureau in its entirety?
We write to clarify a few key points in the news report titled “Customs X-ray machines may be overpriced; bidding deferred,” which was written by Gil Cabacungan (Second Front Page, Inquirer, 7/11/13).
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima is reported in the news article “Finance slams TRO on oil smuggling case” (Business, Inquirer, 5/22/13) to have said that the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Court of Appeals in favor of Phoenix Petroleum effectively prevented government from prosecuting smuggling. He was quoted as saying that “our courts and court processes should not be used by a few to block our progress in enforcing customs laws and creating a level playing field for all.”
I just received an e-mail from Marcelo Tecson of San Miguel, Bulacan, denouncing the bidding conducted by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for the apprehended 93,952 bags (of 50 kilos each) of smuggled rice at the Port of Legaspi City at a very, very low base price of only P88.3 million, which translates into P939.85/bag or 18.80/kilo only. Clearly this bidding is tainted with graft and corruption as the base price is very much lower than the selling price of NFA-imported rice, which is P1,250/bag or P25/kilo. Those crooks at the BOC will certainly make money regardless of whoever won the bidding because of the very low base bid price. Had the National Food Authority (NFA) participated in this bidding and offered a bid of P90 million to P100 million and won, it would have made a profit of P17.44 million upwards.
Amid the escalating word war between the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and industry stakeholders over “rampant rice smuggling,” the Department of Finance has prioritized the reconciliation of conflicting statistics relating to trade and commerce between the Philippines and its trading partners.
The resignation of Ruffy Biazon as Bureau of Customs chief continues to be the “talk of the town” among Filipinos who are concerned with the way the Aquino administration is handling the smuggling problem in the Philippines.
This has reference to Ramon Tulfo’s column titled “Blowing the lid off oil smuggling” (Metro, Inquirer, 4/4/13).
This has reference to Neal H. Cruz’s Jan. 16 column titled “Sugar being smuggled through Cebu port.”