Cartoon by Roni Santiago
Cartoon by Roni Santiago
Since the 1960s, we’ve been hearing reports about the endemic corruption at the Bureau of Customs (BoC). And recently, no less than President Aquino confirmed that the BoC is an agency which is corrupt through and through.

In his fourth state-of-the-nation address (SoNA), the President said, “Instead of collecting the proper taxes and preventing contraband from entering the country, they (BoC personnel) are heedlessly permitting the smuggling of goods, and even drugs, firearms, and other items of a similar nature into our territory.”
Aquino reported that the Department of Finance has estimated that more than 200 billion pesos in revenues has slipped “through our borders” because Customs officials are not doing their job.

He asked: “Where do these people get the gall? One can almost hear these public officials say, ‘I don’t care if the weapons go to criminal elements; I don’t care how many lives are ruined by drugs; I don’t care if our fields remain barren forever. What matters is that I am rich; it’s every man for himself.’”

Aquino’s observation about the extent of corruption at BoC is echoed by Brig. Gen. (retired) Danny Lim, who is an incumbent deputy Customs commissioner.

In an interview with Philippine Graphic, Lim, who had been jailed for several years for leading coups against President Cory Aquino and President Gloria Arroyo, remarked that the task of reforming the bureau is challenging because, he said, it is a dam-if-you-do and damn-if-you-don’t situation.

He disclosed that many of the plantilla positions at the bureau are actually for the “highest bidders,” noting that “no matter how qualified a candidate for the position is, he/she won’t get it. That’s why it has to be professionalized.” He suggested the establishment of a Customs Academy.

It seems that General Lim, who is a West Point graduate, has the best interests of the bureau and the country in his heart.

At BoC where he is trying to do the right thing, Lim has made a lot of enemies, including some publishers of weekly newspapers being circulated in the bureau. From the way he describes these publishers, we surmise that these people are more of fixers than journalists. He said they have become hostile to him and have been attacking him because he won’t give in to their demands.

The general said, however, that bad publicity is the least of his concerns. Saying he is the type who does not easily give up, he appears determined to rid BoC of corrupt people.

We believe that General Lim, who is described as “a rebel with a cause,” is the right man to occupy the position of Customs commissioner. If he is appointed to the position, we believe he could fix this long-broken government office.

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