What about our ‘corrupt’ judiciary, Sen. Sherwin?

BEFORE proceeding, here’s wishing Bro. Eli Soriano of UNTV/ADD/MGCI, a blessed ‘Happy Birthday’ and may your flock continue to increase with the Lord’s blessings.

On his natal day yesterday, April 4, yours truly, with sincere gratitude, recall the many “blessings” that the members of the NPC has received from UNTV/ADD over the years, thru the kind intercession of ‘Kuya’ Daniel Razon -- who is also an honored lifetime member of the NPC.

Primarily among them is the continuing free medical and dental mission of the NPC-UNTV that has been going on now continuously for more than six years already.

When I became NPC president in 2016, the UNTV, thru Kuya Daniel (and Bro. Eli), agreed to my proposal to conduct our joint medical/dental mission at the various press clubs and organizations affiliated with the NPC in Metro Manila and the provinces -- despite the added costs and ‘sacrifices’ this change of venue would entail to the UNTV, its dedicated staff and their volunteer doctors and lawyers.

Previously, this monthly project is being held at the NPC compound in Manila and luckily, Kuya Daniel also shares my view that by going ‘out-of-town,’ we can share its benefits to as many members of the press as possible to include their families, the members of the PNP and the nearby communities.

Also, about a decade ago, when the NPC started its ‘scholarship program’ whereby it gives a subsidy of P5,000 per semester to children of club members who want to finish their college education, it was the financial assistance by the UNTV/ADD, thru Kuya Daniel and Bro. Eli, that made this project a success. Today, about a hundred children of club members have already benefited from this project and our first noisy ‘Thank You!’  should be given to UNTV/ADD.

Again, Maligayang Kaarawan Bro. Eli Soriano! Nawa’y patuloy kang pagpalain ng Panginoon!

***

Last month, the Office of the ‘US Trade Representative’ (USTR), presently headed by Robert Lighthizer, issued its 540-page, ‘2019 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers.’ In sum, it is the latest report to Pres. Donald Trump and the American people on America’s trade and economic relationship with the rest of the world, the Philippines, included.

The USTR is, of course, one of America’s “blunt instrument” in the opening up of other markets for the benefit of the US economy in general, and, American jobs in particular.

Given that it covers practically the entire world, mainstream media’s reporting focused only on the Philippines -- especially about the Bureau of Customs -- while understandable, is also not entirely fair and accurate; some of the negative remarks about us can also be found on USTR’s remarks on other countries.

Indeed, what was left out in the reporting are the positive steps already done by our government in addressing some of the American’s concerns, such as the October 2018 PH-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and in accommodating US interest on meat and automobile products, among others.

More importantly, what was also not mentioned was that the USTR’s comments as regards the BoC were practically the same observations it has raised in its 2018 report (Customs Barriers and Trade Facilitation).

Indeed, when the 2019 report stated that, “Reports  of  corruption and irregularities  in  Customs  processing  persist…” this is almost a ‘cut-and-paste’ statement from the 2018 report.

But what was added in latest report -- but not quoted by the media -- was this statement.

“As part of the October  2018  Joint Statement, the United States welcomed the Philippines’ efforts to  ensure the WTO-consistent valuation of agricultural imports for  duty  collection purposes, including the  enforcement of  laws, regulations, and  policies  prohibiting  the  use  of  reference  pricing.”

And we might as well add here the fact that in addressing the issue of corruption at the waterfront, there is a “special office” at the BoC, created during the time of Comm. Sunny Sevilla, funded by the US Embassy and under the Intelligence Group, specifically tasked to monitor all shipments, particularly between the Philippines and the United States.

One of its tasks is to check on “price fixing” (thru “under/over invoicing,” use of fake documents, etc., etc.). Indeed, I know for a fact that some of the previous apprehended shipments by the BoC were courtesy of the “intelligence” provided by this office.

And probably only having made a cursory reading of the USTR report, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian was quick to issue a press release yesterday mainly lashing the BoC for, what else, corruption.

But if only the good senator read the USTR report on the Philippines in its entirety (we are on page 399 to page 406 in the report) before shaming the BoC, then he would not have looked, well, “ignorant.” Sabagay, ang “lata” daw kapag maingay, “walang laman,” ahahay!

For over the issue of corruption, which “is a pervasive and longstanding problem” in the Philippines, the USTR criticized not only the BoC but also, “the propensity  of  Philippine  courts  and regulators  to stray beyond  matters of  legal  interpretation  into  policymaking,  as well  as  the  lack  of  transparency  in  judicial  and regulatory  processes.

“Investors have also  raised  concerns  about  courts being  influenced  by  bribery  and improperly  issuing  temporary  restraining  orders to  impede legitimate  commerce.”

Translation? Kung “korap” ang Aduana, aba’y “korap” din ang ating mga korte, Sen. Sherwin!

Thus, focusing your angst only against the BoC, is not only wholly inaccurate and unfair -- and makes you look bad for those in the know -- but also, leaving out other branches of government, the judiciary in particular, who are also “guilty” of corruption, probably on a far worse level too.

In short, if it ever entered the mind of our lawmakers (again) to probe the issues raised by the USTR, they should also haul before them, first of all, those in the judiciary.

Abangan!