THE former and present professional athletes hired by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) as employees will be serving as intelligence officers to get public feedback on the BOC’s performance, a lawyer said on Monday.
Mandy Anderson, Chief of Staff of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, made the statement during the resumption of the invesigation by the House of Representatives on the entry of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs in the country.
The lawmakers questioned Faeldon’s hiring of the athletes, who received from P40,000 to P50,000 a month, after the Customs commissioner accused them of perpetuating corruption in the bureau by strong-arming its officials to accommodate their recommendees.
“The intelligence work in Customs is composed of: one, that is related to smuggling which the athletes are not qualified to do, and another one is the gathering intelligence work by getting feedback from the people [on BOC’s performance. They are doing public relations [work for BOC],” Anderson said.
“Also in consideration of the new [Customs Modernization and Tariff] law and the policy on balikbayan boxes of OFWs, so as much as possible, we want to disseminate these information about the bureau, and it helps that we have people [like the athletes]whom the public will actually listen to,” Anderson added.
Anderson’s statements were echoed by former PBA players Marlou Aquino, Kenneth Duremdes and Ej Feihl who testified that they were employed to communicate the programs of the bureau and get the pulse of the public on BOC work.
“We were hired by the Commissioner to help in the image building of the Customs, engage the public by communicating the reforms that the BOC is committed to do,” Duremdes, who played for three national teams in 1994, 1998 and 2002 Asian Games, said.
“As a former PBA player, of course, people easily engage with us. We also do community work and outreach programs for the Bureau,” Duremdes, a former PBA MVP and 1998 Asian Games Bronze Medallist, added.
Other players who faced the congressional inquiry were: former PBA players Ronjay Enrile and Bernzon Franco, former Metropolitan Basketball Association player Gherome Ejercito, former UST Growling Tiger Michael Sumalinog, and Rizza Mandapat, former National University and Customs volleyball player, among others.