I HAVE yet to agree with a Marcos in 62 years , which is my age. But you have to appreciate the crafting of Senator Marcos’ response to the government’s war against Balikbayan boxes. The boxes, Mr. Marcos said, are now the endearing replacements to the love letters that homesick Filipinos abroad used to send to their families back home.
Instead of the written expression of love, remembrance and caring, Mr. Marcos said, the homesick Filipino overseas now have an itemized list – broken down to the last intimate detail – of things in the box for every member of his or her family here. It is now the second best way to express intimacy, after the Skype chats. And we are fully aware, the senator said, of the blood and sweat and toil dedicated to buy those things inside those boxes, painstakingly itemized for every member of the family back home.
Smuggling via small boxes by the OFWs? Have you no shame to even insinuate that, Mr. Marcos told the Aquino mandarins behind the assault on the boxes. The top man – ironically – is the owner of companies dogged by multiple tax payment problems. Have you no shame, man?
The reaction of the family members back home to the “new love letters” is predictable – an amalgam of joy and tears. From a deeply personal realm, my eyes often well when I receive notes like this one which I recently received from a next of kin based in Palo Alto. It said,
“Old Man. I will be sending in a box and these items are for you. Under Armour running shirts (small/fitted) , 1 pair Saucony sneakers (latest Omni model ha ha ), coffee beans now in plastic zip locks to save on space, Splenda also in zip locks also to save space, slim straight jeans size 29/32, low calorie and low sugar energy bars.
“Will also be sending a personal coffee maker (single cup, Krueger brand with a voltage regulator and four reusable pods) that you can pack in a small bag.
As the senator said, every item sent is a proxy for a hug or an embrace that the senders cannot deliver thousands of miles away from home. One more thing: The Palo Alto-based sender surely does a lot of excruciating algorithm to earn the dollars for the items in the Balikbayan boxes she regularly sends to her next of kin in the country.
Do the idiots at customs think that such expressions of remembrance and caring, especially to the next of kin back home who are in the winter of their lives, constitute smuggling, or tax evasion for that matter? Just in case I am profit-minded, how can I resell Splenda and ground coffee in plastic zip locks?
Balikbayan boxes mostly contain stripped-bare items to save space. For a California sending fee of $50 to $60 per box, the senders from there try to max out on space use. Even soap and toothpaste go off their cartons so the sender can pack many cheap and non-commercial items inside one BB. Roughly 99 per cent of the boxes are items for household consumption and use with, absolutely, no commercial purpose whatsoever. Of course, 12 pieces of a single item are not an anomaly. They are items from the dollar stores.
The desperation of the Bureau of Customs people in particular and the tax policies of the Aquino government in general get much more depressing as we look into the general backdrop of the assault on the BB, now a cherished part of the OFW lore.
The sector being penalized here are the OFWs, the equivalent of our modern-day heroes, the economic savior of the country for almost a generation, the sector constantly beating the odds on the level of remittances. The country would have long been a basket case had it not been for the determination and remittances of our OFWs.
All governments and all presidents have paid lip service to the heroism of OFWs but no one has done anything concrete to better their lives. The BB is just one of the few rare institutional relief – though really a token – to their tough and challenged lives overseas.
As the bishops and other major political leaders have pointed out, the revenue generation efforts should not have trained the guns on the OFWs but rather on the large-scale and massive smuggling of goods, from cars to agricultural commodities.
The BOC has been losing track of containerized cargoes passing through the various ports, an act of criminal neglect, while its penny ante revenue efforts are focused on the BBs. With the BOC’s eyes fixed on the small boxes, shiploads of containerized goods pass through with ease and without paying taxes at the porous seaports and airports.
In the agri sector for example, some vigilant anti-smuggling groups have compared the official customs record on imported agri commodities with those tallied by the UN-based agencies. They found out this one. Last year, the officially recorded rice imports was more than 1 million metric tons . But the actual volume shipped was over 2 million metric tons. That was the same case for pork, dressed chicken and beef. The official BOC tally was grossly understated.
Every thing slips through the ports with ease. Yet, yet, the idiots at customs have been more focused on the BBs than big-time smuggling that constitute economic sabotage.
Of course, Lina’s move to assault BBs was green-lighted by Mr. Aquino. That policy is anti-worker. So that is perfectly OK with the President of the one percent. We have yet to see an anti-worker, anti-poor policy that Mr. Aquino does not like.