ALERT orders in the Bureau of Customs are being used to extort money.
This was revealed during the Senate Blue Ribbon hearing chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon whose investigation is now focused on the “tara system” in the BoC.
BoC alerts are quickly lifted and shipments are hardly ever inspected if the price (tara) is right, the senators were told.
When asked by Sen. Panfilo Lacson to specifically describe the normal seizure and lifting procedure of cargoes at the BoC, Customs broker Mark Taguba II said: “Mabilis lang po. Open-close lang. Depende sa tara. Pag wala, matagal.”
It was also claimed that the BoC under Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon refused to cooperate with efforts to dig deeper into the missing 1,494 kilos of shabu that entered the country through the BoC.
“It boils down to the corruption in the BOC,” Lacson said.
Now on its 8th hearing, the Senate Blue Ribbon probe resumed yesterday primarily to focus on the privilege speech of Lacson on the alleged corruption in the BoC.
Sen. Franklin Drilon supported the view of Lacson. Drilon said it is very alarming that the public until now remains uninformed on the status of the missing 1,494 kilos of shabu.
“Thousands have died. We are killing the small time pushers. Since the intensified campaign against illegal drugs, shabu laboratories have been monitored but the shipment of shabu through the BoC is now the medium to proliferate the illegal drugs,” Drilon said.
Reportedly, 890 kg. of shabu entered the country last December and 604 kg last May.
“And yet no case has been filed against anyone by the Department of Justice,” Drilon said as he requested the committee to get from the DoJ an update on legal moves that have been taken.
BoC Deputy Commissioner Edward Buco said the pre-shipment report at the BoC will help monitor and control the cargoes.
“By virtue of Administrative Order no. 243, which was done during the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the pre-shipment inspection is being implemented. I think we just need to amend this,” Buco said.
Drilon said the pre-shipment inspection is very critical if the government is seriously considering reforms in the BoC as he proposed that a law must be passed by Congress to institutionalize pre-shipment inspection report at the port of origin.
During the hearing, Senator Gordon and the father of Mark Taguba, Mr.Ruben Taguba Sr., had an exchange of words when the Senate chair saw the elder Taguba whispering to Mark.
“Sinasabihan ko lang po ang anak ko na kunsultahin muna ang abogado niya dahil sa press release nuong mga nakaraan, sinasabi niyo na puro kasinungalingan lang ang sinasabi ni Mark dito kaya gusto ko kausapin muna niya ang abogado bago magsalita,” Ruben Taguba clarified.
Senator Gordon quickly answered, “Gusto ko linawin sa lahat sa inyo na there is nothing personal between me and Mark Taguba but our committee is after the truth.”
Milo Maestrecampo, resigned Customs Import Assessment Service Director, denied knowing Taguba, claiming he was the target of a syndicate at the BOC.
“Wala akong galit kay Mark. I cannot surmise by heart na ginamit ang pangalan ko at ginamit din ang pangalan ng unit ko ng mga taong tulad ni Tita Nani, Jack at Jojo Bacud. Si Sir Allan (Capuyan) lang ang kilala ko. Alam ko bakit ginamit ang IAS (Import and Assessment Service). It is because of the supposed operation EVRIS which is supposedly tasked to combat under valuation cargoes which was created by former BoC Commissioner Faeldon,” Maestrecampo said during the hearing.
Meanwhile, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will come out with a preliminary report clearing presidential son Paolo and Atty. Carpio of involvement in the P6.4 billion shipment of shabu from China.
Gordon said members of the committee could not be convinced that the vice mayor of Davao and his brother-in-law are behind the shabu shipment that slipped through the BoC last May, considering that Taguba himself apologized for dragging their names.
Gordon said those senators who would not agree with the findings of the report could file a counter-committee report as he confirmed that until now the committee report is being circulated for the signature of each member of the Blue Ribbon panel.
Gordon also shrugged off the accusation of Sen. Antonio Trillanes that Paolo is a member of the international syndicate or the so-called “Triad” and his supposed bank accounts have no “probative value” in the investigation.