INTENTION to reform is one thing, how to do it is another. Ergo, I raise the question: Can Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) wrestle successfully against the network of corruption that had been institutionalized in BOC?

The first and the last time I talked with Faeldon was in Malacañang of the south. He was newly appointed by an equally new to the office of the President, former Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Both share the same enthusiasm to institute reform in the bureaucracy. Duterte, of course, has gargantuan tasks to perform, that include his battle against the drug syndicates, corruption, making peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and pushing forward the economy from a lethargy which benefited only the oligarchy.

Faeldon was raring to take over the helm of the Customs Bureau. He told me that he will be recruiting young men and women who are still imbued with idealism and resistant to the virus of corruption that makes BOC the most corrupt agency in the government.

Faeldon is known for his uncompromising values which makes him the exact opposite of his fellow rebel the now member of the Philippine Senate. Nic, as he insists I would call him, is austere as President Duterte in the manner he dresses and even in his talks. But I can see determination in his eyes and can feel the fire in his belly in battling corruption in BOC.

People are saying, Commissioner Faeldon is like a diesel-fed vehicle. Slow to start but could run fast only when the engine gets warm. I commiserate with the new customs head. He took over a rotten bureau and cleaning it would be a herculean task. The web of corruption in the agency is so complex and so deeply entrenched Commissioner Faeldon must seek God’s divine intervention on how to fight and eradicate the evil conspiracy among the big and operatives, forwarders, brokers and underlings who are not employees of the bureau but act like they have more power than Faeldon himself.

Let me cite me as an example. I was informed by a friend from China that they are sending me samples of special cement for a home project. It was coursed through FedEx who informed me that the shipment is in the bodega at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) and being held by the Bureau of Customs. I got a copy of the shipping documents by email from FedEx which showed Davao City as destination of the cargo. They also asked me to appoint a broker and be prepared to pay storage fees. They said that the items sent to me are of commercial quantity and that the weight is too heavy it cannot qualify for informal entry. Being ignorant of the rules and regulations I swallowed hook, line, and sinker everything FedEx told me.

I appointed a broker who later asked me to prepare P76,500 for fees (taxes) and other incidentals. I grudgingly acceded but by then I have become suspicious. I flew to Manila to trace the path of what I suspect is that of a syndicate.

At this point, let me stress that there are honest officials in the bureau and new appointees are as eager as Faeldon to clear their office of hungry detergents that lurk in the agency. I revealed to them my predicament and these are what they told me.

1. FedEx should have forwarded the shipment to Davao City being the destination.

2. That the cargo is not of commercial quantity and will quality as an informal entry in addition to the fact that I am not an importer.

3. Contrary to FedEx claim that “Informal Entry” had been unauthorized by BOC, it can in fact be availed of by non-importers like me. When I asked the office manager of FedEx at Naia to show me the letter directive from the commissioner, they cannot show me any. She confessed that it’s their office internal memo. I knew she cannot because there were never any implementing rules and regulations.

4. For the shipment, I paid only a little over P11,000 for taxes. BOC Naia proceeded without any ceremony in issuing clearance for my cargo.

5. That the hangers-on in the Naia Customs premises are not agents of the Bureau. I learned later that they are called “personeros.” Gleaning from the quotation texted to me by my broker, these characters are the hatchet men. The loot they divide among themselves and you can surmise who the devils are they.

But what about FedEx?

1. FedEx alleged that they cannot transport the cargo to Davao City because they initially claimed that BOC Davao cannot process the clearance of the cargo. Later they told me that FedEx has no branch in Davao City that is why the processing is done in Naia Customs. I googled FedEx Davao and they are all over town.

2. That I should advise my broker for the transportation of the cargo from Manila to Davao.

Last Saturday, I had a surprise call from Air21 that they have my cargo for transport from Naia Manila to Davao and that I should secure clearance from another government agency. How Air21 entered the picture of my little shipment defies imagination. I told them, am not dealing with another forwarder but only FedEx. (To be continued tomorrow)