New Customs chief carries out reforms to stop corruption

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5) — The new Customs chief is carrying out a scheme that will do away with random checking to stop corruption in facilitating shipments.

"We will come up with a queueing system. First in, first out. Para everybody goes through that. So magbigay ka man ng tara o hindi, parehas. Eh di wag ka na lang magbigay ng tara," Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said in a media briefing.

[Translation: We will come up with a queueing system. First in, first out. So that everybody goes through that. All shipments will be treated equally with or without bribe. So better not give bribe at all.]

Lapeña on Tuesday called on importers to do away with the "tara" or bribe system in computing Customs fees.

The new Customs chief assumed office last week and vowed to end corruption in the bureau. One of his first actions -- the issuance of Memorandum Order 14-2017 that abolished the Command Center created by his predecessor, Nicanor Faeldon.

READ: BOC chief abolishes Command Center

This move reverted to the decentralized the system of issuing alert orders for suspicious shipments to the Deputy Commissioners for Intelligence and Operations, as well as to district collectors nationwide. Faeldon’s order centralized the setup.

Lapeña said he will also bring in his own team to the agency. This includes Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director for Metro Manila Wilkins Villanueva, who will head the Intelligence and Investigation Service (IIS). Lapeña was former PDEA chief.

Former Marine Colonel Neil Estrella was the former IIS head. He quit last month in the wake of the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China which slipped Customs.

"I will be bringing in some people that will be manning yung mga critical positions. Things that I have to have my full trust and confidence. Dahil kasi those positions, I cannot afford trial and error," Lapeña said.

[Translation: I will be bringing in some people that will be manning the critical positions. Things that I have to have my full trust and confidence. I cannot afford trial and error In those positions.]

Lapeña said he will also be strict against the entry of illegal drugs by carrying out a thorough inspection of all cargo at the ports.

"This time pag sabing dadaan sa green lane, then these should be the ones na beyond question yung kanilang mga transactions. Pero kung bago, dapat talaga idaan sa red lane. Di dapat idaan sa green lane," he said, referring to the classification system which was part of the drug shipment controversy.

[Translation: This time if the shipment is cleared for the green lane, these should be the transactions that are beyond question. But if it’s a new entry, this should pass the red lane. It should not pass through the green lane.]

The 640-kilogram shabu shipment from China was classified for the green lane so it was not inspected by Customs personnel.

Barely a week into his term, Lapeña said no one has visited his office yet to give him "pasalubong" or welcome gift.

But he dared those who would bribe him.

"Sana meron para may ma-arrest ako," he said.

[Translation: Hopefully there would be a bribe giver so I can arrest someone.]

In his privilege speech, Senator Ping Lacson said Faeldon received a P100-million “pasalubong” upon assuming office. The former Customs chief denied the allegation.

Lapeña even urged the public to take bolder measures against those would use his name to solicit money or earn favors.

"I ask everyone na kung may gagamit ng pangalan ko (if there is anyone who would use my name), arrest him because I am not authorizing anybody. Arrest him by virtue of a citizen's arrest, and I am going to give a reward," he said.

Lapeña said President Rodrigo Duterte told him to stamp out corruption in the bureau and at the same time meet collection targets. He said he is expected to collect P50 billion a month to make up for previous shortfalls.

A former police general, Lapeña said he is bent on following the President's orders.

"Yung expectation ng Presidente sa akin, I'm going to deliver it. I know kung ano yung kanyang gustong gawin ko sa bureau," he said.

[Translation: I’m going to deliver on the President’s expectation. I know what he wants me to do in the bureau.]