BALIKBAYAN BOX CONTROVERSY

Santiago tells Lina: Rid ranks of thieves

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Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Monday said the Bureau of Customs should first rid its ranks of thieves before coming up with rules desecrating the care (balikbayan) boxes sent by overseas workers to their families.

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“It is one thing to inspect balikbayan boxes, another to desecrate them. The Bureau of Customs [BOC] seems aware that balikbayan boxes, when opened by their personnel, are

GOTCHA A grab from a camera phone video posted on Facebook purportedly shows Customs inspectors at the post office rummaging through a parcel. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

GOTCHA A grab from a camera phone video posted on Facebook purportedly shows Customs inspectors at the post office rummaging through a parcel. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

sometimes pillaged. What have officials done to rid their ranks of thieves?” she said in a statement.

Santiago has filed Senate Resolution 1534 directing the Senate to investigate the issue, which rattled Filipino migrant workers and their families.

The BOC last week pushed for the implementation of tighter rules on balikbayan box shipments that include random inspection and strict implementation of the $500 limit on dutiable and taxable items. The move, Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina said, was meant to curb smuggling and crack down on people who abuse balikbayan privileges extended to Filipino migrants.

“The government must strive to achieve the delicate balance between, on the one hand, fulfilling its mandate to curb smuggling, and, on the other, protecting balikbayan boxes, which are often channels of intimate communication among families. Further, the Bureau of Customs, in the performance of its mandate to scrutinize all shipments into the country, must constantly improve its facilities, including, among others, non-intrusive inspection equipment such as X-ray scans,” Santiago said.

President Benigno Aquino 3rd also on Monday announced that he is set to meet with key BOC officials to discuss the balikbayan box issue.

“Ngayong hapon mag-re-review kami. I called Secretary of Finance Cesar Purisima and BOC Commissioner Bert Lina to a meeting as soon as I get back to Manila and review this whole proposal,” the President said in Cebu City.

“The primary aim of this measure is to help in the campaign against the smuggling of illegal drugs. We’re also getting reports that there are those who sneak in bullets and guns and even disassembled big motorcycles which are shipped through different boxes to evade taxes,” he added in Filipino.

Aquino assured the public that there will be safeguards to prevent abuse.

“I was told that the balikbayan boxes will be made to pass through an X-ray and if there are suspicious images seen, that’s the time the boxes are opened for physical inspection.

There will be independent observers to watch over the process to disabuse the minds of our compatriots that there will be pilferage,” he said.

Defending the measure, Customs Commissioner Lina said the bureau is just implementing the law to address technical smuggling.

He added that the government is losing P50 million a month in revenues because of technical smuggling made through balikbayan boxes.

Lina said the Tariff and Customs Code empowers the BOC to inspect balikbayan boxes.
“If my predecessors were lax in implementing it, then I’m sorry, but I will do my job,” he added.

The BOC chief advised Filipino migrants as well as returning overseas workers to be honest with their declaration in the bill of lading and packing list about the contents of their boxes.

Lina reminded overseas Filipinos to be wary on the quantity of goods they are sending and ensure that each kind does not exceed 12 pieces, warning that beyond that is already considered as commercial quantity and subject to duties and taxes.

“We will see it on the bill of lading and we will take your word for it. Honesty is the best policy. We rely on the honesty of the sender as his or her signature appears on the invoice and packing list. Don’t fake it,” he said.

The Customs chief called on Congress to revisit the duty-free cap on personal things sent by overseas Filipinos that is embodied in the proposed Customs Modernization Tariff Act.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has joined the snowballing move to pressure the BOC to abandon its plan to inspect balikbayan boxes.

“The balikbayan box is part of Filipino culture and tradition and I don’t think OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]will abuse this tradition to send in or smuggle contraband that will put them and their families in danger,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said.

She also called on Lina to reconsider his directive, saying balikbayan boxes are very personal to and close to the heart of OFWs, hence, not a commercial transaction.

“Filipinos in general, and OFWs in particular, have a long-cherished tradition of caring and sharing with families, neighbors and friends, and this tradition is symbolized by the balikbayan box,” Baldoz said.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte joined critics in condemning the BOC, saying the agency is only looking for ways to milk Filipinos working and living abroad.

“Let us stop treating our foreign workers and all Filipinos living abroad like milking cows.
They deserve a better deal,” Duterte said.

He added that the failure of the government to curb smuggling is not the fault of the OFWs and Filipinos living abroad.

“Kung bugok ang gobyerno, dili dapat ang tawo ang mag-antos [Filipinos should not be made to suffer the consequences of a government run by stupid officials],” Duterte said.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares accused the government of being overly obsessed with siphoning off as much money as it could from taxpayers.

“This is nothing more but a fund-raising for the government. It can allot P30 billion for risk management programs and yet shake down OFWs for P600 million? This government’s obsession with revenues is unjust,” Colmenares said in a news conference.

Moreover, he said the Customs’ P145 million worth of newly-purchased X-rays and the presence of K-9 sniffing dogs should be enough to stop any contraband in balikbayan boxes.

“A large budget was granted to the Customs bureau for X-ray, sniffing dogs and other equipment…as much as P145 million. But instead of using these equipment, the Bureau of Customs would rather waste time, personnel and effort to meticulously inspect balikbayan boxes. This would only allow corrupt Customs officials to further victimize our hapless OFWs,” Colmenares added.

WITH JEFFRY TUPAS AND LLANESCA T. PANTI

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25 Comments

  1. Concerned Citezen on

    They don’t consider the OFW’s, who is working hard and helped the Philippines in our economy. Blood and sweat is the investment of those OFW’s. Then The products of their hard work will just be rob by dishonest Customs? How dare they. They said “Honesty Is The Best Policy” but why they are dishonest?

  2. They don’t consider the OFW’s, who is working hard and helped the Philippines in our economy. Blood and sweat is the investment of those OFW’s. Then The products of their hard work will just be rob by dishonest Customs? How dare they. They said “Honesty Is The Best Policy” but why they are dishonest? They are Killing Filipinos.

  3. Matalinong matsing ito si BOC Lina kasi palolosotin nila ang mga balyena pero huholihin nila iyong mga tawilis para kuwari mayroon silang ginagawa sa daang matuwid. Hoy BOC Lina sino ang lolokohin mo? Ang lilang mong panot.

  4. HINDI MAG MUMULA SA OFW SA MIDDLE EAST ANG MGA SMUGGLER,MAGING SA MGA OFW SA ASIA..Maliit lang ang mga sinusuweldo ng mga OFW..Paano sila makapag i-smuggle.. Ang hulihin mo.Lina ay iyong mga negosyante na mga intsik ng nagpapasok ng mga pekeng gawa sa kanila at iyong mga nagpapasok ng mga gamit sa paggawa ng shabu..Sila ang iyong hulihin..Iyong mga malalaking container na pinalulusot mo na kung saan milyong kuwarta ang iyong nakukuha…

  5. What have officials done to rid their ranks of thieves?
    ——————

    Promoted them most likely.
    Every agency is corrupt from the top to the bottom

  6. NEWS BLACKUOT na sa 2000 missing container vans na puro 20 footers hindi sinlaki ng kaha ng posporo. Basura, karne ng manok, baka, baboy, garlic, onions at mga imported cars lusot lahat. BALIKBAYAN BOXES as per GAGONG LINA eh dapat buksan para matiyak na walang WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, DRUGS AT KONTRABANDO na laman then they will compute and decide if more than 10k pesos ang laman so they can tax it. Ito ang mga taong nilagay ni PNOY na kapareho niya magisip..ZERO TO LP CANDIDATES sa 2016

  7. BOC and his henchmen knows the daily operations specially when it involves lots of dough for smuggled items. They are not blind, dumb or idiot, otherwise they will not be holding these high gov’t positions. The question is how much percentage goes to every one of them of the of the whole value that they have to split?

  8. Obvious na “ways and means” measure para sa 2016! The more (money) the merrier! Drama ng Pnoy admin para ang attention mapunta sa lil boxes na mga yan, habang busy yong ibang tao ni Pnoy na nghahakotan sa mga sangkatutak na pera sa huge metal boxes (container vans) pangastos sa malalim na 2016 election campaign! It’s a diversion! Tayo lng ang ginagago!

  9. Can you really believe that Customs can open a Balikbayan box and leave it untouched and unpilfered? If you do then I can tell you that we have the best international airport in the world, that traffic runs smoothly at EDSA and Pope Francis has certified that all LP members are as honest as the day is long

  10. whatever. but it is true that the balikbayan boxes are being used in smuggling including guns. this is old news. this has been going since it was invented. Let BOC do its job and clean itself too. how is that. in the meantime lets pay taxes so there will be more basic services available.

  11. Wla man lng take si Mar Roxas sa issue???! Halos lahat ng kakandidato sa 2016 nag comment na against BOC. Sobra Hina ng political strategist or ng PR ng Liberal. Kayo gumawa ng issue dapat pasikatin nyo yung bata nyo. Iba tuloy nakikinabang sa media mileage.

  12. Yo’re targeting balikbayan boxes. But the 2000 container vans that disappeared you under your noses you have not done anything. And you think misdeclaring one or two imported can goods or 2 pairs of rubber shoes will solve anything. Mga ugok!!!

  13. there’s something funny going on in the boc for such a long time. once in a while they show us some container vans with highly dutiable cars, goods, rice etc etc. why is it they cannot identify who imported them must be one of life’s mysteries! all they do is make big announcements that the importer will be charged of smuggling and yes that’s the last we hear from it, nobody goes to jail on this! to make it short it’e nothing but the usual moro-moro!

  14. Miriam, Thanks for speaking up and taking the side of our OFWs. Make them institute a rule that OFW boxes can only be opened in the presence of the owner. We all know they will only open boxes to take something out.

  15. If they really want to stop smuggling – THEY SHOULD START IN SENATE AND CONGRESS! , and religious groups ! OFW are heroes NOT SMUGGLERS!
    Mr, Lina ,
    you just made enemy to the millions of OFW families and will not vote any LP candidate

  16. Bobski Natividad on

    I agree 100 o/o with Sen. Mariam, the BOC has been known as legal thieves, should Pnoy wants to intitute his “daan matuwid” he should start from the BOC.

  17. No BOC Head past and present can remove the thieves. BOC Mafia has been in existence since the beginning.

  18. Sinadya ni BOC LINA na palabasin ang walang kakwenta-kwentang bagay para siya’y mapansin, na kunwari’y may malasakit sa bayan. Pareho sila ng kanyang kapatid na si Joey Lina na nagakda ng batas na nadudulot ng kapahamakan and gulo sa maraming tao ngayon. Ang pakay ni Lina ay hindi para sa bayan, kundi pagtakpan ang kapalpakan ng kayang pamumuno ang ibaling ang issue na smuggling sa mga OFW. Ang katutuhanan niyang kilala at mga kaibigan ni LINA ang mga big time smugglers. Gusto lang niyang ibaling ang attencion ng mga tao. DIYOS NA ANG BAHALA SA INYO.

  19. Commissioner Lina, you must be kidding! Are you really looking for smuggled goods? The greenhills mall and many others are full of them. These stores have been, for many years now, selling only fake and smuggled goods right under your nose. What have you done to stop the owners from openly and blatantly selling smuggled items? Please stop your stupid crap about balikbayan boxes!

  20. “if my predecessors were lax in implementing it, then I’m sorry. I am just doing my job” – what is it with this government that everything is about the fault of someone in the past . Pnoy and Lina are the same — they both want to look good by making their predecessors look bad.

    • First thing Lina did was transfer the guy who was investigating one of his companies then claim he didn’t know that was the guy. Lina was appointed to head that agency even tho his company or companies were under investigation.

      Just another corrupt or incompetent appointee, same as all the others appointed by Aquino.

  21. Roldan Guerrero on

    Fellow Filipino OFWs lets just exert a little sort of patience. Few months from now, this regime will be over. We hope and pray that we will have a a good and competent President who will give credit to our sacrifices in keeping the economy afloat as a result of the US Dollars we are remitting to our families, boasting the national dollar reserve for our country. Aquino has never given a damn to our sacrifices. LET US JOIN HANDS TO STOP THE ABUSES OF THIS REGIME and LP….WE SHALL NOT VOTE FOR ANY LP CANDIDATE!

    • You will have as president whoever Aquino wants.

      Does the fact that the Liberal Party is using Smartmatic again even after the 2013 election where the machines had the security and accuracy components removed not get thru people’s heads ?