Lawmakers on Tuesday pushed for emergency powers for President Rodrigo Duterte to address the decades-old corruption at the Bureau of Customs, noting that the government lost around P44 billion in revenues due to incompetent operations of the bureau.
In a committee report prepared by the House of Representatives’ committee on rules chaired by Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua, it said an “immediate execution” of the grant of the special powers to the President is needed to put an end to the problem.
“Corruption within the Bureau plays a bigger role than lost revenues,” the committee report said. “It affects the country’s economy as a whole.”
The committee, which conducted a series of inquiry on the taxation aspect of the P6.4-billion shabu shipment controversy, said it is about time that the President “take over” the operations of the BoC.
“This Committee recommends that Congress grant the President emergency powers to immediately take over the operations of the Bureau in order to ensure public safety and security,” the committee report said.
It added: “The occurrence of the national emergency may be considered when the Philippine first line of defense has been compromised because of the Bureau’s corruption and incompetence in protecting and securing our border from entry of large scale contraband especially illegal drugs.”
The committee report acknowledged that “without an accurate measure of its current economic standing, the country’s economic managers are unable to properly plan and implement economic strategies.”
Cua, in an interview, expressed hope that the grant of emergency powers to the President would be the win-win solution to the rampant corruption in the bureau.
The House ways and means committee also recommended the abolition of the BoC and instead, it sought to replace the agency with a Bureau of Customs Service and the Bureau of Security Control.
The customs service shall take charge with the assessment and collection of import duties and taxes; while the customs security control shall be tasked to exercise police authority at all ports, in charge of customs border control, port security and communication and inspection and monitoring of cargoes.
“The replacement of the present Bureau with two new bureaus is no easy task. The complexity of the current system and the difficulty of the entire transition process can give rise to unforeseen difficulties. As such, this Committee recommends a two-year transition process to establish a fully operational system,” it said.
The House ways and means committee noted that the government lost around P44 billion in revenues due to corruption, incompetence, system flaws and willful neglect of duties of erring BoC officials.
“In sum, it is estimated that the government lost P43.8 billion in revenues from July 2016 to July 2017, while corrupt Bureau officials were able to amass over P7.7 billion from grease money,” the committee report read.
Meanwhile, the House committee on ways and means, recommended the filing of appropriate charges against resigned Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and the BOC officials, including violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, the Anti-Red Tape Act, and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The recommendation came from the House committee on dangerous drugs’ which also conducted a series of probe into the controversial shabu shipment from China.
The panel also proposed the revocation of invalid customs memoranda, orders and regulations, and the dismissal of officials, consultants and personnel at the bureau from public service due to serious errors, gross inexcusable negligence and dereliction of duty.
These include: former commissioner Nicanor Faeldon; deputy commissioner Gerardo Gambala; director Neil Anthony Estrella; director Milo Maestrecampo; Mary Grace Malabed; Larribert Hilario; Vincent Philipp Maronilla; Lorna Rosario; Ranier Ragos; Alexandra Yap Ventura; Mandy Anderson, and Althea Acas.
The panel also recommended the dismissal of consultants and contractual employees exercising control or supervision over regular and career employees.