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