New Davao Customs chief vows to cleanse bureau

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014


THE newly-appointed district collector of the Port of Davao on Wednesday vowed to totally eradicate the so-called "Friday Habit", which was unabated before he assumed post.

"We are basically trying to remove what they call 'Friday Habit', collecting informally and spreading the sunshine informally to just anybody. We intend to slowly remove this culture and continue to just do our job," said Port of Davao district collector retired Army Gen. Ernesto Ruiz Aradanas.

The "Friday habit" is allegedly a weekly meeting among Customs employees and importers where multimillion-peso bribes exchanged hands.

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Aradanas, who assumed the post on Feb. 3, said he has already mandated his personnel to distinguish people who have genuine concerns and those who just visit "in the guise of trying to do an official business at the Customs during Friday afternoon" but would only want to get "support" from them.

"I directed my personnel here not only to observe the dress code but to also identify who are real stakeholders, who have real concerns with the BOC from the personal intentions and concerns that they would want us to attend to," Aradanas said during the first monthly press conference under his stint at the BOC Wednesday.

He said the "habit" has "expanded in coverage through the years".

"Actually hindi lang sa ayaw, hindi na kami kaya. Friday is the most important day to many because that is the time collecting the informal collection and distribute kaagad doon sa identified recipients," he said.

"We are starting to discourage that. Unang una, dahil napakahirap. It is not easy to discern a true concern and what is just made-reason in order to receive a little support," Aradanas added.

With the reform that he intends to implement, the district collector encourages to visit them on Fridays or even regular days to see that they are really serious with the system restructuring in the bureau.

"In line to reform at hand, the Port of Davao wishes to inform the stakeholders that we intend to smoothen the process and no more imposition of the so-called "tara". We would like also ask them to help us police their own ranks," a copy of the BOC's press release read.

It was former Senator Panfilo Lacson who first revealed to the public of this illegal activity inside the Bureau of Customs way back in 2011.
Lacson earlier said the bribe money could amount to "billions", and the money was being collected from importers and/or brokers.

"This involves large amounts of money, and these are given according to rank," Lacson said.

Aside from putting an end to the "Friday habit", Aradanas also said they will curb other forms of corruption.

"We are starting to fully implement the "No Fixer" policy and the Anti-Red Tape Act. We are also trying to shield the Port of Davao and its sub-ports from undue external interventions," the BOC said.

The Port of Davao was placed on hot water when Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares sought Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's help over the rampant rice smuggling happening here.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 20, 2014.

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