No bribe at Customs

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014


NEWLY-APPOINTED Customs Commissioner John Sevilla warned Customs personnel that bribery has no place at the Bureau of Customs.

"That is completely unacceptable. Zero tolerance on bribery," Sevilla said. Violators, he said, will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.

Did you hear the sudden deafening silence at the bureau? No one’s singing, “Here comes the bribe,” anymore.

***

Sevilla said smuggling is a nationwide problem and it happens because the bureau has a system that does not allow the bureau to capture the smugglers quickly.

"Smuggling happens in so many ways. Smuggling happened and we are caught off-guard.

Under our reforms, we will be fixing our system that it would be easier to catch them," he said.

Sevilla also said “smugglers are not stupid.” Are you still going to ask why no smuggler has been caught and prosecuted?

***

Among the most favorite goods for smugglers is rice. Cebu Customs officials seized the biggest haul of smuggled Vietnam rice last year worth P1.2 billion and earned for the bureau more than P800 million in a series of public auction.

A Customs official told a Senate inquiry Tuesday that based on anecdotal data, some 50,000 tons of rice slipped by the bureau each week at the height of rice smuggling last year.

Some were caught, but most slipped away. If this continues, the country may soon start exporting smuggled rice.

***

Fighting erupted between government troops and rebels belonging to the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao Monday, two days after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) successfully ended negotiations to end a decades-long insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people.

That’s the reality on the ground in Mindanao.

Make peace with one group, and a breakaway faction soon starts another shooting war.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 29, 2014.

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