Duterte orders freezing of several Customs officials, employees

Robie de Guzman   •   July 11, 2019   •   1610

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a situation briefing with members of his Cabinet and local government officials to discuss disaster response measures in the aftermath of Tropical Depression (TD) ‘Usman’. at the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC) in Pili, Camarines Sur on January 4, 2019 ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the freezing of several high-ranking officials and employees of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) over corruption allegations.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said these officials are facing administrative and criminal charges for unlawful activities. Their names, he said would be disclosed “at the appropriate time.”

“The President’s latest action underscores this Administration’s zero tolerance on corruption among erring officials,” Panelo said in a statement released on Wednesday night (July 10).

“We continue to dismantle corruption in the bureaucracy and rid it of corrupt officials and employees… The anti-corruption campaign is continuing as it is relentless. No one will be spared,” he added.

Duterte’s order was issued days after he warned of firing several Customs officials who are accused of corruption. The president also bared he was mulling over another revamp in the BOC.

READ: Duterte mulls another Customs revamp

He also mentioned anew his earlier proposal of bringing the military into the BOC to address corruption allegations in the agency.

It can be recalled that in October 2018, the president said he is considering asking military men to take over the BOC due to the rampant corruption and drug smuggling activities.

Although there are reports that corruption and bribery still continue to thrive in the BOC, Malacañang said on Tuesday that Customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero still enjoys the trust and confidence of the president. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

P15M worth of misdeclared high-end goods seized at NAIA

Robie de Guzman   •   August 5, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A shipment of high-end branded goods that were misdeclared as personal effects was recently apprehended at the Port of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said.

In a statement, the BOC said the shipment, which consisted of bags, shoes, wallets and other luxury goods was valued at P15 million.

The items included high-end brands like Chanel, Hermes, Christian Louboutin, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Balenciaga bags, shoes, wallets, and earrings.

The bureau said that the shipment was fraudulently declared as personal effects, consisting of shampoo, soap, towels, toiletries, canned goods, milk and chocolates, packed in 17 cartons. It was shipped from Milano, Italy through RRG Freight Service Forwarder in Paicargo Warehouse.

A physical examination of the subject shipment confirmed that it actually consists of high-end goods in commercial quantities.

The BOC said the misdeclaration is an apparent attempt to evade payment of correct duties and taxes by circumventing duty and tax free privileges afforded to balikbayan boxes.

According to Port of NAIA district collector Carmelita Talusan, the shipment will be subjected to seizure and forfeiture proceedings for violation of Section 1400 in relation to Section 1113 of the CMTA.

The records and details of the apprehension shall be referred to the Bureau Action Team Against Smugglers (BATAS) for case profiling and build up against the personalities involved in the foiled smuggling.

Former PhilHealth officer reveals P15-B ‘stolen’ by ‘mafia’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 4, 2020

Former PhilHealth Anti-Fraud Legal Officer Atty. Thorsson Montes Keith revealed that around P15 billion had been ‘stolen’ by so-called ‘mafia’ in the agency.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday (August 4), Keith called the alleged massive corruption in the agency as ‘the crime of the year’.

Ang aking natuklasan sa PhilHealth ay matatawag ko na krimen ng taon, (What I discovered in PhilHealth can be called the ‘crime of the year’), he said. “Naniniwala po ako, base sa aking imbestigasyon, ang perang nawaldas at o ninakaw ay humigit kumulang P15 billion (I believe, based on my investigation, the money spent or stolen reached around P15 billion).”

Keith cited the supposed corruption over PhilHealth’s allegedly overpriced IT system which prompted his resignation with other agency officials.

He also revealed that PhilHealth CEO and President Ricardo Morales has ordered him to talk with Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica to fix the issue of overpriced COVID-19 testing kits.

Ang dahilan kung bakit hindi natatapos ang korapsyon sa PhilHealth, at naging kutlura na po ito, ay ang pagtatalaga o ang paglalagay ng mga sindikato o mafia ng kanilang kasamahan, kasabwat or kapwa sindikato sa matataas na posisyon na nakakatulong sa kanilang iligal na operasyon (The reason why corruption has not been curbed in PhilHealth, and has become a culture, is the appointment or designation of syndicates or mafia, the fellow cohorts in a high position that helps in their illegal operation),” he added.

Morales has not yet directly responded to the new allegations but had previously denied there is corruption in PhilHealth. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Duterte tells telcos to report LGUs delaying permit processing

Robie de Guzman   •   July 31, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said telecommunications companies should report local government units that are obstructing the building of additional cell towers by delaying the processing of permits.

Duterte made the statement in a televised address after Globe Telecom President and CEO Ernest Cu told the president about their permitting woes in order to build more cell sites and improve their services.

“We are suffering ho from many, many years of this, before your administation, many administrations, 25 to 29 permit umaabot ng walong buwan tapos marami pa ho kaming miscellaneous fees ho. Iba-ibang klaseng tower fee. Mayroon kaming special use permit,” Cu said.

Cu met with Duterte after the latter threatened during his State of the Nation Address to shut down or expropriate telcos if no improvements are made in their services before December.

“Kasi sabi ko, ‘pag hindi mo pa na-improve ‘yan, I will hang you in one of your towers. Sabi niya, “Mayor, you cannot do that because there is no tower. The local governments are all f—–g it up,” Duterte told Cu in jest.

After hearing Cu’s concerns, the chief executive urged telcos to issue a formal complaint against local government units that are stalling the processing of permits for additional communication towers.

He also told telcos to report LGUs to proper authorities.

“Isumbong niyo na lang ng diresto at ang order ko sa Cabinet ngayon is to really take the, ‘kung pinakamabigat, the most drastic measure that you can find, para magkaintindihan. This is my last mile,” he said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, in the same briefing, said that local government units have been ordered to shorten the process and reduce the time spent in producing permits to 16 to 20 days.

“Dati po kailangan pa ng Home-Owners Association Resolution, kailangan pa ng Sangguniang Bayan Resolution, wala na po ‘yon. 16 days to 20 days po ang target para y’ong lahat ng permit ay tatakbo,” he said.

The government has been pushing for the ease of doing business to streamline the process in government agencies.

Globe Telecom and PLDT Inc. earlier said they are currently working on expansion plans to improve the communication services in the country. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

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