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Customs accreditation-crimes have been committed in its name!

THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Aduana is back in the radar. 'And it's smack in the crosshairs again that provoked the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte himself who said: I will fire more than 50 executives in Customs.'

Interviewed exclusively by this writer, lawyer Ramon Cuyco, who retired in 2014 at the age of 61 as BOC director, said a Customs official said 'we are not surprised by the President's announcement anymore.'

'Well, sir,' Cuyco retorted, 'probably what should not surprise you as well is perhaps, why the foundation of the many problems that confront the BOC, and allows them to subsist and persist is not addressed until now -the accreditation of importers.'

Cuyco said: 'Accreditation is the first issue one has to get acquainted with when planning to deal with the Bureau of Customs regularly. Unless your firm is accredited, your importation documents will not be processed. You have to secure an accreditation; otherwise your importation will languish within the Customs zone for eons.'

'Under the old Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines,' Cuyco said, 'accreditation was never a legislative imposition. It was not even expressly mentioned in any of its provisions. It gained relevance, traction, recognition and prominence only through various rules and regulations of the agency-i.e., Customs Administrative Order, Customs Memorandum Order or Customs Memorandum Circular, that were issued by our fiscal and Customs authorities in the exercise of their powers of subordinate legislation. Until the last time the TCCP was amended to accommodate post-entry audit operations, there was no mention of accreditation.

'But the objectives of accreditation were undoubtedly noble, and their pursuits were necessary, until-unfortunately-the implementation became tainted with graft, its reputation besmirched, and the entire process has gone terribly awry. Today, nothing good has been said about it; only its notoriety has stuck with this administrative mechanism. And it has even survived the TCCP having perpetuated its infamy under the new Customs Modernization and Tariff Act [CMTA].

'What started as an effective organizational response to the many evils that were sought to be avoided, succumbed to, and, worse, ended up becoming the very evil itself. And the BOC seemingly has not find-or deliberately refuses to find-an antidote to this virus that-for want of a name, we shall refer to as 'accreditationitis.' This dreaded disease has long gnawed into the very backbone of the agency's cargo clearing system. Perforce, a procedure is necessary, and 'accreditingotomy' it has to be.'

According to Cuyco, 'the agency's response to contain this disease was simply to transfer the Accreditation Office to a new organizational grouping, or create a new name for the outfit, or install a new head; but it maintained its systems and processes that were pockmarked with holes-so big are the holes that even ocean going vessels can breeze through them, in a manner of speaking.'

He said the CMTA has preserved the requirement in the old law, that is, for the BOC to keep records of importers and brokers. These data are necessary in the conduct of the post audit activities of the bureau, and include vital information that can only be generated through a system of accreditation.

Thus, the CMTA provides:

'SEC. 1006. Records to be Kept by the Bureau.-The Bureau shall keep a database of importer and broker profile, which shall include a record of audit results and the following information and papers:

(a) Articles of Incorporation;

(b) The company structure, which shall include but not limited to incorporators and board of directors, key officers, and organizational structure;

(c) Key importations;

(d) Privileges enjoyed;

(e) Penalties; and

(f) Risk categories.'

Cuyco said: 'Approved two months before the installation of President Duterte who campaigned on a platform of a drug-free and crime-free Federal Philippines,' this new law has not really curtailed the evils that were sought to be avoided-consignees-for-hire, single-proprietorships bringing in billion pesos-worth of goods, firms that are not just flying-by-night but on-broad-day-light as well, among the many, still proliferate in wild abandon.

'A check into the regulatory architecture of this accreditation process will readily show that its design was bound to fail ab initio. The whole process is host to the DNA of corruption, that is, C=M+D-A, as deciphered by Dean Robert Kliitgard of the Rand Graduate School of Sta. Monica, California, USA.

'Kliitgard says: where there is monopoly of authority, plus wide latitude of discretion, minus accountability, you are likely to see corruption.

'Applied to the BOC's accreditation process, M+D-A exists unchallenged, undisturbed, and unabated-worse, nurtured and cared for.

'Starting with its days under the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service of the Intelligence and Enforcement Group as Accreditation Unit, it was relocated to the Legal Service of the Revenue Collections Monitoring Group as Customs Accreditation Secretariat.

'Then, having seen the potency of the 'enterprise,' the RCMG itself poked its dainty fingers into the accreditation process as its Interim Customs Accreditation and Registration office-this was the period when some 2,000 containers were reported missing. ICARE didn't care; then it meandered its way to a joint-accreditation system in tandem with the Bureau of Internal Revenue upon the behest of the Department of Finance.

'Eventually, it got unnecessarily annexed to the Office of the Commissioner as its Accreditation Management Office, yet the outfit's systems did not really address the problem of M+D-A.'

Cuyco further explained: 'As had been for decades, BOC has a predilection for simply changing people, without changing its systems. And this port-based agency has been doing this repeatedly in the same fashion for the same purpose with high expectation for a different outcome.

'Einstein has a term for this: insanity. Dr. Stephen Covey, once one of America's Five Most Influential People, expounded Einstein's postulate, he said: 'One of the definitions of insanity is to keep on doing the same thing the same way and expect a different result.'

'Under the present dispensation, the incumbent Customs chief is the third Customs Commissioner of the Duterte Administration-they're all handpicked by the Chief Executive, sans recommendation from anyone, not even from the top honcho of the Finance Department. To date, the systems and processes of accreditation office have virtually remained unchanged-from the perspective of checks and balances.'
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jul 16, 2019
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