By: Mario Casayuran
When multiplied by 730 days or two years, the daily payola given by importers through brokers or fixers to the Bureau of Customs for the accelerated release of their containerized shipments at Manila’s waterfront is enough to wipe out the national government’s current budget deficit of P147 billion.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, made this calculation after the first of a series of public hearings last Monday by the Senate Blue Ribbon on questionable shipments, including the deadly 600 kilos illegal drugs such as ‘‘shabu,’’ are allowed to leave the waterfront.
Focus of the public hearing presided by Sen. Richard J. Gordon was how a 600-kilo shipment of shabu embedded in a consolidated importation from China was given preferred treatment although shipments from mainland China are supposed to be automatically examined thoroughly and not allowed to pass through the “green lane.’’
The Gordon committee resumes its public hearing on Aug. 8.
Lacson said he could only accept that there is sweeping reform at the customs bureau when the sharing among preferred customs officials and personnel of the collected payola during the traditional Friday “3 o’clock” habit is stopped.
He said he would raise this issue to a possible new customs commissioner and when the answer is a mere twist of the lips, “walang pagasa mareporma.’’