Senate panel seeks Customs overhaul

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THE Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has pressed for the “total overhaul” of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) as well as the filing of criminal charges against all officials in the bureau’s former command center for their alleged involvement in smuggling.

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The committee, headed by Sen. Richard Gordon, came up with several recommendations to address corruption and smuggling at the BoC.

Gordon, in his 52-page draft report, “strongly recommended and urged in the strongest terms that the BoC be totally overhauled.” The “tara” or payoff system must also be dismantled since it facilitates smuggling of products and illegal drugs.

The committee recommended the filing of criminal charges against all the officers of the Command Center and other personalities allegedly involved in smuggling and the “tara” system.

Former Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon created ComCen on Sept. 6, 2016.

The ComCen prevented other authorized Customs personnel from issuing an alert order on their own authority.

“This allowed unscrupulous persons to take advantage of the centralization of the alert system to bypass the checks of district collectors and field offices and, thus, abuse the “green lane” facility,” Gordon said.

Faeldon is still detained at the Senate after he was cited in contempt for his refusal to attend the blue ribbon committee’s investigation on the smuggling of P6.4 billion shabu from China.

Gordon recommended the filing of criminal charges against Faeldon, Milo Maestrecampo, former director of the Import Assessment Service (IAS); Neil Estrella, former director of the Customs Intelligence Investigation Service (CIIS); Joel Pinawin, intelligence officer; Gerardo Gambala, head of ComCen; fixer Mark Taguba, customs broker Teejay Marcellana, Eirene Mae Tatad, the “consignee for hire”; Chen Ju Long who is also known as Richard Chen/Richard Tan, owner of Hong Fei Logistics; Kenneth Dong, and Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson did not sign the report because the findings and recommendations of the blue ribbon committee in its draft report “are not consistent with what was discussed during the public hearings.”

Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th rejected Gordon’s report which he claimed “cleared” the involvement of Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio in the smuggling of shabu.

“I will not sign it and I will oppose it on the floor if he will sponsor it,” Trillanes said.

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