THE controversies hounding the Bureau of Customs (BOC), which was recently ranked as the “most corrupt” government agency in a survey, dampened people’s trust on the government but Malacañang said the agency’s leadership is trying to find a quick fix to its problems.
“There are continuing steps to modernize the system and equipment there, even the systems and procedures are being given attention,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said on Sunday.
He was reacting to the latest survey by pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) showing that the bureau is considered the most corrupt agency. The survey came at the height of a controversial proposal by Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina to subject Balikbayan boxes to mandatory inspection.
According to OFW Family Rep. Juan Johnny Revilla, the anger of OFWs directed at the BOC and the government after Customs top officials bared plans to do random checks of balikbayan boxes was a result of years of terrible experiences at the hands of corrupt customs men.
“It’s all about trust. And right now, the government doesn’t have it,” the lawmaker said.
Revilla added that OFWs do not trust the BOC or the government because officials have been made aware of the different problems faced by those sending packages to their loved ones in the country but most complaints have been unaddressed.
“Families of OFWs report lost items, incidents of overcharging of duties, and unreasonable delays in the release of their boxes. These horror stories are so commonplace that you cannot blame our OFWs if they have little faith in the capacity of the BOC to stop abuses in the course of doing its job,” the lawmaker explained.
But Coloma, in an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday, clarified that President Benigno Aquino 3rd had ordered the BOC to subject all container containing Balikbayan boxes to x-ray and K-9 inspections.
“Because we recognize the hardships and sacrifices of our OFWs,” he stressed.
Revilla, however, maintained that the controversy on the Balikbayan boxes brought attention to the urgent need to “bring fresh, untainted leadership to Customs and our government.”
“As long as we have leaders who are suspected of using the agency for campaign fund-raising and other shenanigans, their actions, even well-intentioned, will always be considered suspect,” he said.
The OFW advocate said that at this point, “Sen. Grace Poe and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero appear to have an edge in presenting themselves as leaders our people can trust.”
“In numerous hearings at the Senate, the two have shown that the only agenda they’re interested in is protecting the welfare of our citizens. People see that, which is why they are the two most trusted officials in the land,” Revilla said.
Poe had the highest approval ratings at 93 percent. Following her was Escudero with 83 percent based on a June 2015 survey by Pulse Asia.