LAST week, I provided an overview of the modus operandi by which "unsuspecting first-time importers, who are not familiar with customs procedures and processes are victimized by some corrupt officials of the Bureau of Customs in connivance with the courier company which brought in the imported goods."
I wrote about how "the imported goods are held in the customs-bonded warehouse of the courier. The courier, which had already been paid the shipping fee in advance, will then inform the first-time importer that the shipment had been considered 'abandoned' due to the delay in claiming the same." DHL Philippines is one of these notorious couriers.
Well, I found that this is not only happening to locally based importers but also to those sending various items from abroad to the Philippines. Scotty Bear, an American, sent this e-mail message to me: "You wouldn't believe what the BoC and DHL [are] doing xxx. 150 days now. This may even damage [the] shipment. I've brought legal case action against DHL in the US over this issue."
"DHL already has a horrible reputation in the US. The Better Business Bureau has them rated an 'F' business. This I found out after shipping my package. We paid a Pack and Ship Express place here in El Paso, Texas $520 to ship this package via DHL back in May. Just like your anti-red tape laws we have consumer protections laws here that basically says 'you can't sell someone a service and not perform on that service,' or you can bring a small claims action against that business and have your case heard in front of a judge. The hearing for this case is in 12 days from now. I attached the court filing and DHL's rating. This package remains undelivered 151 days now." This last email message was sent on Sept. 26, 2021. This means that the package has remained undelivered for 155 days as of this writing, and it has stayed in the Bureau of customs for more than four months by this point.
Scotty Bear posted a video on YouTube with the title "Bureau of Customs Philippines SCAM" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxc0Z36g37M).
Wow! even foreigners knew and have experienced this scam. Here are some of the highlights of his vlog:
"This video about the Bureau of Customs' shipping scam that goes on in the Philippines. x x x I have about three months ago shipped a box to the Philippines. Now, the box had some electronics in it, notably an iPad, and different things from the United States. x x x You may want to rethink shipping anything of real value via DHL air as that is the main way the scam goes down because when you ship your items, of course being American, you are paying maybe a good amount of money shipping to the Philippines."
"That is really the scam itself. They are aware of what is in the box. x x x The scam is really this — they keep denying, they keep denying, they keep denying ... and long periods of time start to pass, x x x their deal is to drag it on ... and struck more money out of you. x x x And in my case, you know DHL is facilitating the scam actually."
"The letter that I received from the actual executive office, office of the CEO, or whatnot, they said that 'we have a great relationship with the Philippine Customs.' x x x I feel like DHL is not doing their job because all the emails we've gotten have been from DHL, they are trying to hide behind the Filipino government in the scam. x x x This is a scam that is really kind of both parties involved are really perpetuating this problem."
"The longer the time goes along, of course, what the Philippines Bureau of Customs is hoping is that the interest in the box goes down. They marked the box abandoned x x x which is far from abandoned and this is all part of the game. x x x Anyway, that is the Philippines Bureau of Customs scam."
Well said, Scotty Bear. It jibes with the modus operandi that I described victimizing first-time unsuspecting small-time importers. DHL would always promise their customers that the customs [bureau's] lifting of abandonment and processing would take from four to six weeks, but this is far from the truth. A lot of these goods are kept by Customs for as long as six months until, as Scotty Bear puts it, "the interest in the box goes down."
So, what happens to boxes that were ultimately "abandoned" by DHL but not by the customers?
DHL Express sued
Scotty Bear already filed a small claims/debt claim case against DHL Express. The case citation says, "The State of Texas to Pack & Ship Express; DHL; defendant, in the hereinafter-styled numbered cause: You have been sued. x x x You or your attorney must file an answer with the court. Your answer is due by the end of the 14th day after you were served with these papers. x x x"
The citation was issued on July 27, 2021 by the Justice Court, Precinct 1, of El Paso County, Texas. I am eagerly awaiting how this case develops. Also, I expect to get a copy of the answer filed by DHL, courtesy of Mr. Bear.
We should do the same thing here in the Philippines — sue DHL and make the BoC a party to the same class suit.
Why would customs processing take that long? I am aware that we have an Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act (Republic Act 11032) which amended the Anti-Red Tape Act (RA 9485). What happened to its observance and faithful compliance by customs personnel?
It was declared the policy of the state "to promote integrity, accountability, proper management of public affairs and public property as well as to establish effective practices, aimed at efficient turnaround of the delivery of government services and the prevention of graft and corruption in government. Towards this end, the State shall maintain honesty and responsibility among its public officials and employees, and shall take appropriate measures to promote transparency in each agency with regard to the manner of transacting with the public, which shall encompass a program for the adoption of simplified requirements and procedures that will reduce red tape and expedite business and non-business-related transactions in government." Where are the simplified requirements and procedures that would supposedly reduce red tape at the Bureau of Customs?
There is a proviso there declaring the head of the office or agency to be "held accountable to the public in rendering fast, efficient, convenient and reliable service. All transactions and processes are deemed to have been made with the permission or clearance from the highest authority having jurisdiction over the government office or agency concerned."
Could the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) summon the head of this agency and hold him accountable for this alleged scam? ARTA can do this country and the victimized Filipinos a favor by expediting the release of all "small-valued" goods immediately, and without requiring them to pay additional storage and facilitation fees.
I apologize for bringing up the rumors that ARTA is in cahoots with the Bureau of Customs. Let ARTA do its job now and prove itself innocent.
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