CUSTOMS Commissioner Rey Leonardo ‘Jagger’ Guerrero has bared that corruption in the agency thru the so-called ‘tara system’ has been “decentralized” to the level of local collection districts.
In a stern warning to all the bureau’s 17 collection districts, a copy of which was furnished this writer, the highly respected former chief of staff of the Armed Forces (AFP) said he would hold them directly responsible “if these corrupt practices continue in your respective units.”
“Take decisive action against these unscrupulous personnel before I am constrained to take action against you,” Guerrero warned further.
Enjoying the full trust and confidence of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, Guerrero replaced Comm. Isidro Lapena last October 2018, amid another drug smuggling incident that again highlighted the perennial problem of corruption in the agency.
On taking office, Guerrero had already warned that while he has a lot of respect to bureau officials and employees enough to give them “another chance,” the campaign against graft and corruption would be “relentless.”
Prior to issuing his message last Tuesday, Guerrero said he has been receiving “persistent reports” that customs personnel “continue” to collect ‘tara’ from stakeholders, especially from importers. Worse, he added, the bribery has been ‘decentralized’ to the local level.
“These unscrupulous BOC personnel have resorted to using my name and other Dep Comms (deputy commissioners) to compel importers to pay.
Again, let me reiterate that I have not tolerated, and will not tolerate, graft and corruption in the BOC,” he added.
‘Tara’ refers to the regular giving of bribe money to customs officials by waterfront stakeholders consisting mostly of brokers and importers in exchange for favor, mostly thru faster release of their shipments from customs custody.
Although the amount varies, depending on the BOC unit concerned, a report to then Pres. Benigno Aquino by then BOC deputy commissioner for intelligence, Jessie Dellosa in October 2013, divulged that upwards to P1.68 billion per year in “tara” is going the rounds of at least 14 customs offices in the amount of at least P140 million a week.