• SEN. PANFILO LACSON

    ‘CUSTOMS BRIBES BIG ENOUGH TO WIPE OUT BUDGET DEFICIT’

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    CORRUPTION at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is so extensive that “payoffs” collected by bureau personnel could wipe out the government’s budget deficit in just two years, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday.

    Lacson, who admitted obtaining information directly from customs brokers, lamented the practice of the so-called “three o’clock habit” at the BOC, which, he said, continues even under the leadership of Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

    CONFIDENTIAL? Isidro Lapeña, director of the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency, confers with Representatives Robert Ace Barbers and Rudy Fariñas. Lapeña had asked to give his testimony on the seizure of a huge shipment of illegal drugs behind closed doors. PHOTO BY RUY L. MARTINEZ

    “As long as the “three o’clock habit” exists, there would be no reform [at the BOC],” he said.

    The senator was referring to the regular Friday afternoon meeting among customs personnel and importers in which payoffs change hands and are divided.

    Based on the information received by Lacson, the average “payola” ranges from P27,000 to P30,000 per container.

    At the hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the illegal entry of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs on Monday, Customs Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala told senators that the bureau receives up to 10,000 shipments a day.

    Lacson said given the daily shipment figures and the average rate of “payoffs” per container, the daily bribe collected at the bureau could amount to P270 million.

    “Pag multiply mo ng 365, (If you multiply it by 365 days) easily that’s P98.55 billion [in one year],” Lacson said.

    The senator noted that the bribe collected in two years would be enough to “wipe out” the budget deficit. The budget deficit for this year is expected to reach P147 billion.

    “But the collection goes straight to the [personal]pockets and not to the government,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Gordon tagged BOC officials as either incompetent or corrupt for releasing more than 600 kilograms of shabu from China.

    Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, criticized BOC officials led by Faeldon for allowing the shipment containing the contraband to pass through Customs right under their noses.

    “This is really the gang who can’t shoot straight. Either you’re incompetent or you are corrupt. That’s the whole point here,” he said.

    Gordon vowed to point out through the investigation how the illegal shipment was able to pass through practically undetected and whether BOC personnel were involved.

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