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BOC corruption will be eliminated by minimal discretion -- Escudero.

By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero on Monday expressed belief that the best way to curb corruption in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is to minimize discretion among its employees.

Escudero made the statement in reaction to President Rodrigo Duterte's frustration over the rampant corruption in the BOC.

President Duterte earlier said he believes corruption in the BOC cannot be resolved regardless of who he appoints to lead the agency. The President even called on the military to take over BOC, saying it is in a state of "anarchy."

But Escudero said the government can still institutionalize mechanisms that would ensure transparency and minimize corruption, which, in fact, can be done not only within the BOC but in other government agencies as well.

For one, the BOC can implement a stricter queuing system for incoming and outgoing shipments so that cargoes that came in first would be the first to be processed and released.

"There is a way to resolve corruption at the BOC or in any other agency of government. Discretion always equals corruption. Minimize discretion and corruption will be minimized. Eliminate it and corruption will be eliminated. One such application is the 'FIFO' or first-in-first-out rule," Escudero said in an interview.

Escudero noted that one of the factors contributing to corrupt practices in the BOC is the high demurrage the agency is imposing on shipments. Demurrage are charges paid to the BOC when a cargo remains in its terminal beyond the given free storage period.

"Kapag unang dumating ang shipment na ito, dapat una nilang i-process ito bago nila i-processiyong pangalawang barkong dumating. Ang nangyayari kasi sa Bureau of Customs, alam naman nating lahat, uupuan iyong papel mo, ilalagay palagi sa ilalim hangga't lumapit ka (When a shipment comes first, the BOC should process it first before proceeding with the next one. What happened in the BOC, as we all know, is they would sit on your application, stash it underneath a pile of papers, and wait for you to come to them)," Escudero pointed out.

"Dahil sa laki ng demurahe na kailangan mong bayaran, makikipag-areglo ka nalang para mas mapabilis ang paglabas ng shipment mo, (With the high demurrage that you need to pay, you have no choice but to approach them to ensure the release of your shipment)," he said.

The senator, likewise, urged the BOC to do a systems review and evaluate its existing protocols as well as eliminate certain areas of discretion in order to finally solve corruption in the agency.

"Ang pangunahing area of discretion sa customs, una, kailan ko ba pipirmahan o dedesisyunan iyong papel? Wala silang rule na ganoon. Maa-address iyon ngFIFO. Pangalawa, ano bang evaluation ang ilalagay ko diyan for tax purpose? May bluebook naman na ang Customs at matagal nang naimbento ang computer (the primary area of discretion at the Customs, is first, do I need to sign or decide on a paper? They do not have a rule on that. That one can be addressed by FIFO. Second, what type of evaluation would I put there for tax purpose? The BOC already has a bluebook and they have computers)," said Escudero, pointing to the Customs modernization law that already took effect within the agency.

"Ang dali naman na sigurong gawin noon sa Bureau of Customs, para iyong human intervention at discretion, mabawasan o malimitahan mo man lang. Pag nabawasan o nalimitahan mo iyon, mas kaunti na lang ang kailangan mong bantayan, (I think that's easy for the BOC to implement, to lessen human intervention and discretion at least lessen or limit these actions. If you are able to limit that, then you have less people to guard)," Escudero reiterated.


MB File-Senator Chiz Escudero (MBPhoto|Camille Ante|Manila Bulletin)
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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Nov 12, 2018
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