BUREAU of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña has ordered the relief of over two dozen customs officials as he continues in his campaign to stop the “tara culture” at the bureau and use of the illegal ‘benchmarking’ in the assessment of taxes and duties.
In separate customs personnel orders (CPOs) released by his office late last week and which were also approved by Department of Finance (DoF) secretary, Carlos Dominguez, 8 district collectors and 30 frontlines officers were ordered relieved and replaced from their current posts.
The eight district collectors were Elvira Cruz, Port of Cebu; Romeo Rosales, Port of San Fernando; Julius Premediles, Port of Limay; Jose Naig, Port of Iloilo; Carmelita Talusan, Port of Subic; Divina Garrido, Port of Legazpi; Halleck Valdez, Port of Zamboanga; and, Tomas Alcid, Port of Appari.
In separate CPOs dated September 27 but released also last week, section chiefs, 30 in all, from the Formal Entry Division (FED) of the Port of Manila (POM) and Manila International Container Port (MICP) were also removed from their posts and reassigned to various provincial collection districts of the bureau.
The respective FED assistant chiefs of the said two ports were designated as acting chiefs following the major revamp.
Since his assumption to the top Customs post last August 30, Lapeña has repeatedly stressed that while he is willing to give all Customs officials and employees “a clean slate, BoC personnel should also comply with his directive to immediately stop the practice of “tara” (bribery) and to immediately do away with benchmarking.
Prior to the massive reshuffle, a first for the bureau in the last 6 years, Lapeña had disclosed to the media that he is “personally monitoring” the performance of the district collectors and those in the Assessment Division to find out if his directive is being followed.
“It is apparent from the records that benchmarking is still being used in the assessment of duties and taxes. This has to stop immediately,” the Customs chief said, as he also identified the Assessment Division as to where the tara and benchmarking starts in the bureau’s release process.
More ‘PDEA boys’ enter BoC
In a related development, more of Lapeña’s erstwhile subordinates from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) have begun to occupy sensitive posts at the BoC. They include: Melvin Estoque from PDEA Regional Office VII, the new chief of the Account Management Office (AMO) which is in charge of accrediting importers; Director Jeoffrey Tacio from PDEA Regional Office I, Officer-in-Charge (OIC), Import Assessment Service (IAS) which monitors all import values of the goods entering the country to prevent instances of undervaluation; and PDEA Regional Office IV-B Director lawyer Jacquelyn L. De Guzman, OIC, Administration Office.
Former PDEA NCR director Wilkins Villanueva, former PDEA Region 7 director, Yogi Felimon Ruiz and former PDEA director for plans, Gladys Rosales were the first to join Lapeña at the BoC.
Villanueva is now the acting chief of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) while Ruiz is now the head of the BoC Customs Police (ESS). Rosales now serves as the acting deputy commissioner for internal administration.