Manila Bulletin

BOC X-ray sys­tem can only han­dle 16% of all im­ports; bro­ker bares cor­rup­tion

- By MARIO B. CASAYURAN Bank of China · Manila · Beijing · Philippines · Congress of the United States · Philippines Department of Finance · Panfilo Lacson · Vicente Sotto III · U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration · FBI · Valenzuela · Richard Gordon · Carlos Dominguez · Xiamen · Xiamen Airlines

The flow of il­le­gal drugs through the coun­try’s sea­ports could not be con­tained as the cur­rent X-ray sys­tem of the Bu­reau of Cus­toms (BOC) is only ca­pa­ble of han­dling just 16 percent of all im­ports ar­riv­ing in the coun­try through the Manila In­ter­na­tional Con­tainer Port (MICP).

This was re­vealed on Mon­day by Cus­toms Com­mis­sioner Ni­canor Fael­don when he ap­peared be­fore the Se­nate Blue Rib­bon Com­mit­tee, which is con­duct­ing a pub­lic hear­ing on the smug­gling of 16.4 bil­lion worth of 600 ki­los of “shabu” ship­ment from China last May 24. The drug ship­ment was seized from two ware­houses in Valen­zuela City by the BOC fol­low­ing the

in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by China.

Fael­don ad­mit­ted that the chance of shabu be­ing smug­gled into the coun­try is 84 percent with the lim­i­ta­tion of the X-ray sys­tem.

He also warned sen­a­tors that another 500 ki­los of shabu are ex­pected to be un­loaded in the Philip­pines “that we can­not de­tect.” He did not pro­vide fur­ther de­tails.

But Fael­don said he is tak­ing full re­spon­si­bil­ity for any shabu ap­pre­hended or failed to be ap­pre­hended by the Cus­toms and for the ac­tion or in­ac­tion of his men.

With the rev­e­la­tion, both Gor­don and Fael­don agreed that there is a need to in­crease the num­ber of X-ray machines that could de­ter­mine the con­tents of steel con­tainer vans.

Be­fore at­tend­ing the Se­nate hear­ing, Fael­don re­vealed be­fore BOC em­ploy­ees dur­ing the bu­reau's si­mul­ta­ne­ous flag-rais­ing cer­e­mony about the lim­i­ta­tions of its X-ray sys­tem. He like­wise en­cour­aged all Cus­toms em­ploy­ees to par­tic­i­pate in the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion and tell the whole truth.

“The ca­pa­bil­ity of our X-ray machines is only max­i­mum of 16 percent to­day. That means 84 percent of all con­tain­ers that come into the coun­try… there's no way we can find out what is in­side there,” Fael­don bared.

“In other words, at the min­i­mum, if any stupid im­porter would want to take ad­van­tage on this weak­ness of the bu­reau, it has an 84 percent chance of suc­ceed­ing in smug­gling any form of com­mod­ity in the coun­try,” the com­mis­sioner added.

“I en­cour­age ev­ery em­ployee of the BOC to wel­come all in­quiries that the Se­nate, Congress, and all other bodies that may in­quire about the drugs smug­gled into the coun­try… to par­tic­i­pate will­ingly, re­veal ev­ery­thing, tell the truth, not half-truth be­cause half-truth can al­ways [some­times] lead to another mean­ing,” Fael­don added.

Cor­rup­tion at BOC Dur­ing a closed-door meet­ing of the Se­nate Blue Rib­bon Com­mit­tee, young cus­toms bro­ker Mark Taguba tes­ti­fied about the ex­tent of cor­rup­tion at the BOC. He was im­me­di­ately placed un­der its pro­tec­tive cus­tody.

Be­fore con­duct­ing the Se­nate pub­lic hear­ing, Sen. Richard J. Gor­don, com­mit­tee chair­man, told re­porters that Depart­ment of Fi­nance (DOF) Sec­re­tary Car­los Dominguez had ad­vised him: “Free Fire.”

It was re­vealed that an im­port ship­ment per con­tainer van, no mat­ter what its con­tents are, has a stan­dard­ized “fee” for the con­cerned cus­toms per­son­nel.

Gor­don said Taguba would be given se­cu­rity by the Se­nate Of­fice of the Sergeant-at-Arms (OSAA) and other gov­ern­ment agen­cies as he has to go out and make a liv­ing.

“He (Taguda) is not out of the woods yet. We are tak­ing his state­ments with a grain of salt and we are still un­rav­el­ing the prob­lem,” he added.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, it was re­vealed that a Tai­wanese busi­ness, headed by Richard Tan or “Jen Ju Long,” leased the two ware­houses where the 600 ki­los of shabu were stored af­ter they were “spir­ited out” from the wa­ter­front.

The il­le­gal drugs passed through the BOC “green lane.”

This prompted Gor­don and Sen. Pan­filo M. Lac­son, chair­man of the Se­nate Pub­lic Or­der and Dan­ger­ous Drugs, to ques­tion why the con­sol­i­dated ship­ment con­tain­ing the shabu from Xi­a­men, China, was as­signed to the “green lane” when there is a directive that ship­ments com­ing from China should go through the or­di­nary lanes based on pa­ram­e­ters set by the BOC Risk Man­age­ment Of­fice (RMO).

How­ever, RMO head – Lam­bert Hi­lario – could not be ques­tioned as he went miss­ing af­ter he was sus­pended by Fael­don for tin­ker­ing with the RMO pa­ram­e­ters.

Mean­while, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Vi­cente C. Sotto III said the BOC vi­o­lated the cur­rent Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency (PDEA) law when it sent to the Na­tional Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (NBI) the 500 ki­los of the seized shabu, while only 100 ki­los was sent to the PDEA.

He said drugs seized by gov­ern­ment agen­cies must be trans­ferred or sub­mit­ted to the PDEA for proper dis­po­si­tion.

When Sotto asked what hap­pened to the 500 ki­los of shabu, an NBI of­fi­cial said the drug is still be­ing ex­am­ined by a foren­sic chemist.

Gor­don also re­vealed that be­fore the 600 ki­los of shabu were seized, a big shabu ship­ment had been re­leased mys­te­ri­ously at the wa­ter­front.

He said he felt de­meaned by the China Cus­toms let­ter of com­men­da­tion to the BOC for the seizure of the ship­ment that oc­curred days af­ter it mys­te­ri­ously left the wa­ter­front. (With a re­port from Betheena Kae Unite)

 ??  ?? IN­VES­TI­GAT­ING BOC – Se­na­tor Richard Gor­don (right) pre­sides over the hear­ing of the Se­nate Blue Rib­bon Com­mit­tee on the 16.4 bil­lion­metham­phetamine hy­drochlo­ride (shabu) from China which passed the Bu­reau of Cus­toms (BOC). Cus­toms In­tel­li­gence and In­ves­ti­ga­tion Ser­vice di­rec­tor Neil An­thony Estrella (left) at­tended the hear­ing. (Jay Gan­zon)
IN­VES­TI­GAT­ING BOC – Se­na­tor Richard Gor­don (right) pre­sides over the hear­ing of the Se­nate Blue Rib­bon Com­mit­tee on the 16.4 bil­lion­metham­phetamine hy­drochlo­ride (shabu) from China which passed the Bu­reau of Cus­toms (BOC). Cus­toms In­tel­li­gence and In­ves­ti­ga­tion Ser­vice di­rec­tor Neil An­thony Estrella (left) at­tended the hear­ing. (Jay Gan­zon)

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