>A RANKING official of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is set to divulge details of the alleged corruption inside the agency, specifically those committed at the Port of Davao, the People’s Action Against Corruption (Paac) said on Wednesday.
In a press conference at the Ateneo de Davao University, Paac convenor Mussolini Lidasan said they are now coordinating with the BOC official who agreed to turn state witness once the Senate conducts its inquiry on the alleged anomalies at the BOC in Davao City.
Lidasan said the Customs official allegedly decided to testify after learning that he will be made as “a sacrificial lamb” by higher officials of the BOC over the discovery of the 40 container vans that contained smuggled rice, which were declared as construction materials.
The discovery was made by businessman Rodolfo Reta who owns and operates the Acquarius Container Yard (ACY), utilized as the designated examination area (DEA) by the BOC thru a 25-year Container Yard Outside Custom’s Zone (CYOCZ) agreement.
It was learned the Customs official is now on a floating status. The official is reportedly filing a case against Port of Davao Customs Collector Anju Nereo Castigador in retaliation.
In Wednesday’s press conference dubbed as “Customized Corruption,” Paac members denied insinuations that they are after the head of the Customs officials involved in the alleged anomaly or are they defending Reta.
Oliver Autor of the Centrist Democratic Movement (CDM) said their coalition is not concerned with the personalities involved in the issue but on the corrupt system not just in the BOC but in all other government agencies.
“Rodolfo Reta is just a case. He is just one person who is so bold enough to come out in the open and talk about corruption,” Autor said.
Benjie Lizada of the People Power Volunteers Reform (PPVR) said the operation of DEA inside the ACY was an experiment of the Customs officials in Manila. He said the Davao operation was the first test case of the Customs’ effort to rid their agency of corruption.
He said that the contract Reta entered with the BOC mandates him to report any anomalies he could observe in the operation of the DEA, as stipulated in the Customs Administrative Order 594, otherwise his contract will be cancelled.
Lizada said that when Reta complied with the agreement and reported the misdeclaration of the smuggled rice, the BOC abruptly closed the DEA operation instead of lauding Reta for his compliance with the CAO 594.
“They started an experiment but after nine months of operation they have to stop it kasi nga naging very efficient na yung check and balance,” Lizada said.
Lizada said all the Paac wanted is for the DEA operation at the private container yard of the ACY to continue to maintain check and balance in the Customs operations. He said the private partnership program of the DEA operation in Davao is doing so well that the Port of Davao surpassed its collection target in 2009 and 2010.
Professor Adrian Tamayo, Paac member, said had the operation of DEA inside ACY not been halted last February 26, 2010 the BOC collection would have been much greater than their actual collection last year.
He said this is because there will no longer be misdeclaration of goods and the government will get the right payment of the importers and exporters.
“It will dismantle the layer of corruption thus transparency will prevail. And there will be accountability,” said Tamayo.
Lizada said that if ever the ACY is again allowed to operate the DEA, a non-government organization must now be invited to participate in the monitoring and observation of the DEA operation so as ensure that corruption is really decreased if not totally eliminated in the Bureau of Customs.
“We are not after any heads here, the last thing we want is another Angie Reyes to happen. Just allow the experiment to continue but this time have a non-government organization be involved to monitor and observe the DEA operation,” Lizada said.
“We are focused on correcting the system. I am sure that Castigador and other officials are also just caught in a very dishonest system,” he added. (Ben O. Tesiorna)