WHY THE COUNTRY SINKS DEEPER INTO CORRUPTION?

EVERY new president that sits in Malacañang appoints a department head and bureau chiefs, who are indebted one way or the other to a religious group, a political party or incumbent politician, or a campaign supporter or donor.

As such, a new layer is added into the bureaucracy each time a new bureau head is appointed by the incoming department secretary with the old appointees clinging hard to their post—never mind if they are placed on floating status or in the freezer.

The expected consequence of course is a declining quality of service and failure to meet targets and objectives, especially of collections by the revenue agencies.

Such shortfall eventually will necessitate heavier borrowings to be able to sustain the government machinery and to fund an ever increasing budgetary appropriation for the coming years, of which P3.35 trillion is allotted for 2017.

The reason people decide to cling like leaches in their post is to protect—whichever way possible—their “sponsors” and other vested interests whose goods and importations pass through them and must be imposed duties and levies appropriated by the law but which they will exert every means to avoid (in exchange of course for a fee that goes right into their pockets) to the detriment of public interest.

 

Musical chairs at BoC

At the Bureau of Customs, a musical chair of sorts began this week when Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez decided, out of political accommodation perhaps, to install in vital ports and airports people who had been previously placed on floating status by former Commissioner John Sevilla who brought in new blood into the bureau.

Sevilla eventually was forced to resign when his arch rival Teddy Raval, chief of customs intelligence, had a severe clash over procedural issues in the bureau with him but was upheld by President Noynoy Aquino.

Sevilla was eventually replaced by come-backing Commissioner Albert Lina (whose tenure was shrouded with doubts about conflict of interest since his logistics companies must also be subjected to customs inspections and levies as provided by law but apparently got better deals during his term at the bureau).

When President Duterte assumed last July, Raval (believed to be backed by Iglesia ni Cristo, a strong supporter of Duterte) was retained and even made deputy commissioner for intelligence with the assumption  last June 30 of current Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

Faeldon in 2003 joined a group of 321 men of various branches of the military in staging the Oakwood mutiny and the occupation of Manila Peninsula in Makati (including now Senator Antonio Trillanes) to denounce corruption and politicization of the armed forces.

Faeldon brought with him one military man, Maj. Gen. Natalio Ecarma a fighter pilot who served as undersecretary of DND.

Ecarma is also credited for being the first Filipino appointed by UN Sec. Gen. Ban Ki Moon as head of mission and force commander of UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights.

Reports had it that Faeldon wanted to position 10 others of his Magdalo brothers but Dominguez objected.

Frustrated, he then sought to bring in fresh (inexperienced) lawyers to effect reforms, but Dominguez protested because collections would naturally suffer as they know nothing about it.

They fought long and hard about this but Dominguez prevailed. Talks in the grapevine said Faeldon is on his way out.

Dominguez’s strategy is to remove from the finance department the remaining 22 (of 44 collectors) frozen by Sevilla to the vital ports and airports to prove themselves or get out.

The move began last Tuesday at the Port of Manila, the Manila International Container Port (MICP); NAIA, Clark International Airport located at the Clark Freeport Zone, Batangas and other ports except Bataan.

Half of those frozen are either retired, or have resigned because they could not stomach being required to report everyday doing nothing (but get paid anyway).

The gamble—whether they perform or not—would have its toll in the collections beginning this December and in the succeeding months and years.

 

Targets

The collection target of the Bureau of Customs for 2016 was placed at P409 billion, when actual collection from January to June (under Aquino) reached P190.6 billion and from July to December (under Duterte) the target collection was pegged at P218 billion (of which the target collection for July to October was set at P145 billion) leaving a collection balance of P63 billion for up to December.

But with low import volumes and values due to declining fuel prices, the target might not be met and would be aggravated by the musical chairs of the collection heads of the ports and airports, who have yet to prove their mettle.

Come January, the Development Budget Coordinating Council, headed by the NEDA (which is chaired by the president) will again set the new collection targets for BoC, Bureau of Internal Revenue and other revenue agencies for 2017.

Changing collection heads midstream will not just be risky but fatal for the government coffers.

 

BoC Districts

The bureau has 17 district collectors who supervise 17 collection districts in implementing customs laws, policies and programs in the different ports of entry.

These are: Port of San Fernando, La Union (District 1); Port of Manila (D2-A); MICP (D2-B); NAIA (D3); Port of Batangas (D4); Port of Legazpi (D5); Port of Iloilo (D6); Port of Cebu (D7); Port of Tacloban (D8); Port of Surigao (D9); Port of Cagayan de Oro (D10); Port of Zamboanga (D11); Port of Davao (D12); Port of Subic (D13); Clark International Airport (D14); Port of Aparri (D15) and Port of Limay (D16).

Since the creation of the bureau in 1946, there had been 38 designated commissioners some whose terms were only for one year or less while others for over six years, with Ramon Farolan as the longest staying from 1977 to 1986.

Each of these commissioners brought with him his trusted people placing them in key districts and positions of the bureau, some in co-terminus positions but others opted to take permanent positions and stayed on long after their patron had left the office.

Directly under the Office of the Commissioner, who is responsible for the general administration and management of the bureau, are six deputy commissioners for internal administration group; revenue collection monitoring group; assessment and operations coordination group; intelligence group; enforcement group and management information system and technology group.

The BoC, along with BIR, Land Transportation Office and the Department of Public Works and Highways have often been branded by previous presidents (even the current one) as the most corrupt agency because of the pilferages of imported goods, technical smuggling being allowed especially in customs bonded warehouses and allowing imported goods for local processing to be re-exported from export zones to find their way in the local market in utter violation of the processing zone law.

Most importantly both BIR and BoC—main revenue sources of government—fall short of their goals, which is why they often land in newspapers.

Occasionally, however, the bureau gets to be praised for apprehensions made in airports and ports of smuggled (coming in or going out) items such as the most recent one last January at the NAIA involving P545,00 worth of shabu being smuggled out of the country in three outbound parcels on several occasions.

One containing 50 grams of shabu was stashed in a book bound children’s book bound for the United Kingdom; another 31 grams in a wooden box bound for Saudi Arabia and 28 grams sandwiched in ladies sandals also bound for Saudi Arabia.

Let’s see how Dominguez’ strategy will work for the benefit of the country.

 

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