Customs chief vows to weed out corrupt employees

Posted at 02/28/14 4:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Commissioner John Sevilla vowed yesterday to remove Bureau of Customs (BOC) employees found to be working with rice smugglers.

Meeting with farmers, Sevilla said 10 farmers lose their livelihood whenever a container van of rice is smuggled into the country.

“The biggest lesson I learned is that several containers of rice are seized and that every container is like stripping away the livelihood of 10 rice farmers,” he said.

Sevilla said Customs agents have intercepted thousands of container vans of smuggled rice.

“Let us not just look at it in terms of how many tons of rice in every container, but how many livelihood of farmers are destroyed,” he said.

Sevilla assured the farmers that he is one with them in the campaign against rice smuggling.

He hopes that the next time he meets the farmers he would have solved five of the 100 problems that the BOC is dealing with all at the same time.

Sevilla has filed a complaint against 18 Customs appraisers and examiners suspected of facilitating the release of several smuggled shipments of rice last year.

Customs Deputy Commissioner Jesse Dellosa is investigating the case.

Sevilla told Alyansa Agrikultura and R1 (Rice Watch and Action Network) and other farmer organizations: “We made a commitment that all Customs employees who approved and cleared previous (smuggled shipments) even without import permit would be held accountable... whoever go against this rule will face consequences.”

The BOC will give the farmers copies of the inward foreign manifest to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to identify the smugglers.

‘I am not David Tan’

Davidson Bangayan presented documents yesterday at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to show that he is not suspected rice smuggler David Tan.

During preliminary investigation, Bangayan submitted copies of his birth certificate and passport as evidence.

Bangayan denied perjury charges that the Senate has filed against him due to his persistent denial that he and Tan are one and the same person.

In a libel case that Bangayan filed in 2005 against a broadsheet and Federation of Philippine Industries chairman Jesus Arranza, documents showed that he admitted using “David Tan” as an alias.

However, Bangayan said in his counter-affidavit, his lawyers merely borrowed the phrase “Davidson Bangayan aka David Tan” from the libelous article and used it in his affidavit.

“Being a layman, I understandably relied heavily on my lawyers’ advice that it was necessary for my complaint to quote the exact wording of the libelous article,” he said.

Bangayan said he believed that the contentious phrase from the libelous article would not be considered “conclusive evidence” against him in the libel case.

“I had no hand in the preparation of the purported Annex I to the complaint for libel... Looking back, there may have been some oversight on my part, and I should have exercised more prudence so that the statements contained in the complaint for libel could not have been misconstrued as an admission as regards my identity,” he said. – With Edu Punay