Corruption at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), which was rated by the business sector as the most “insincere” government agency in fighting graft, would be curbed if the public, particularly victims of smuggling and those who were asked to give ‘grease money’, would come out, according to Customs Commissioner Sunny Sevilla.
The BOC’s rating in its campaign to stop graft plunged to a low –63 last year from the –46 in 2012, according to a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey. The survey, which was conducted from July 31 to November 29 last year, revealed that of the 24 government agencies rated for sincerity in eradicating corruption, the BOC was the only institution that got a “very bad” net sincerity rating.
“The only way we can change Customs and ensure that Customs performed better is to disclose data to people… the public should demand to disclose more data…[and]we want victims of smuggling to tell us what are we doing wrong,” Sevilla said at the sidelines of the Good Governance Summit.
Sevilla said the bureau will release all Customs data every month in their dashboards (customs.gov.ph, data.gov.ph and dof.gov.ph/customsngbayan) to identify “misvaluation and misdeclaration.”
“We want the public to look at the data and tell us what is wrong and what is useful to them. We’re working on cleaning our other data sets,” he told reporters.
However, Sevilla’s predecessor, Ruffy Biazon, said that the negative rating of the bureau will change once the initiatives that he started when he was the Customs chief will start to bear fruit.
Biazon said that the result of the reforms that aim to eradicate corruption at the bureau “will be felt only later on.”
“It must be pointed out that it was also during the same period  of the survey that
crucial steps were taken to implement measures to address the corruption concerns,” Biazon told The Manila Times.
He noted that at the time the survey was taken, the BOC had just received a tongue-lashing from the President during his July 22, 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA).
In his SONA, President Benigno Aquino 3rd scolded Customs officials for their failure to curb corruption.
“Of course, perception by the public on corruption will increase after such
pronouncement,” Biazon, who was named consultant on police good governance, said.
SWS president Mahar Mangahas said they could not point out the reason for the decline of private sector trust on the government in terms of corruption, but he said that a critical hypothesis on the government situation would be useful.
“Yes, [it]is not as good as 2012. As for the reason: Why do businessmen feel this way? We can only get answers from the data we collected. What would be good is to make a general hypothesis as to why corruption can change from different variables,” he said.