(This is a corrected version of our original editorial in which we committed the grave error of mistaking BOC Commissioner Albert Lina for former senator Joey Lina. We are sorry for our grave error.)
BUREAU of Customs Commissioner Albert Lina’s brother then Senator Joey Lina became notorious years ago for being the author of a populist but anti-developmental and pro-gangster and pro-anarchy law. His law penalizes middle-class Filipinos who own real estate that have been invaded by squatters. It gives squatters the right to continue occupying their illegally occupied real estate –often with the support of gangsters and bullies — until the land’s owner can give them the money needed for them to relocate to another site.
The money required from a rich real state corporation to pay off squatters is no skin off the wealthy corporation’s owners. But the expense of relocating a squatter family or families is devastating to the thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers who are abroad to earn the money for the food, clothing and shelter of their families and to save up the funds needed to build their first homes on land they are still making installment payments for.
Not only OFWs but also “non-poor” families that own a piece of land but can’t afford to build their dream home suffer as a result of what the late Neal H. Cruz correctly dubbed “The Stupid Lina Law.”
A new “Stupid Lina Move” against OFWs
Now BOC Chief Albert Lina has come up with a plan to make OFWs miserable.
He plans to curtail the use by OFWs of balikbayan boxes because these are being used for smuggling.
We wholeheartedly agree with Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. who has lambasted BOC chief Lina for using his agency’s “bureaucratic might against overseas Filipino workers sending personal effects to their families through ‘balikbayan’ boxes in the guise of an anti-smuggling campaign.”
Senator Marcos urged Commissioner Lina not to carry out plans to impose “further restrictions on the use of balikbayan boxes by the OFWs including a plan to impose taxes or additional fees on forwarding costs for OFW boxes.”
Mr. Marcos commendably said: “Mr. Lina, you are a public servant. It is your duty to consult with stakeholders first, before embarking on any draconian measure that would turn their lives upside-down.”
He reminded the BOC chief that the balikbayan box came into being during the late President Ferdinand Marcos’ time “ when Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines was amended to provide duty and tax-free privileges to overseas Filipino workers so they can send personal effects including gift items to their families.”
Sen. Marcos said to the BOC: “Have you no shame? For every OFW, a balikbayan box is the equivalent of his or her love letter to a spouse and the rest of the family. Every item inside that box was bought with a specific person and purpose in mind, bought for with the hard-earned money of our modern-day heroes. So if a single item there gets lost, can you imagine how that feels to an OFW who invested so much emotion and money just to get those goods home?”
Investigate Customs’ perennial collection shortfalls
Sen. Marcos challenged Mr. Lina to justify before the Senate during its forthcoming budget hearings the BOC’s move to open balikbayan boxes at random. “Let them defend themselves during the budget deliberations. Specifically, I would like to know how many bigtime smugglers have they managed to put behind bars during the five years under this administration.”
He said there was a need to investigate the perennial shortfalls in the collections of the BOC.
“Are they planning to impose taxes on balikbayan boxes to make up for their annual collection deficit? In bullying our OFWs, they managed to expose their own internal deficiencies. Ayusin muna nila ang bakuran nila dahil mas nakakapinsala ang korapsyon sa loob ng BoC kesa sa mga balikbayan boxes na pinapadala ng mga lehitimong OFWs.”