Stop Benchmark, or put lives of Filipinos in peril, an anti-graft group calls Biazon

AN ANTI-GRAFT group yesterday called on Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon to stop the illegal Benchmark System (BS), or hideously betray our national security and put lives of millions of Filipinos in peril.

Leaders of the Center for Anti-Graft and Corruption Prevention, Inc. (The Center) charged that BS pervasively thrive today under Biazon’s watch, that rises in conceit and utterly insults the fervent desire of President Beningo S. Aquino lll to reform the bureau completely.

“The BS must stop now as it does not only promote smuggling of all kinds of cargoes, including illegal drugs, firearms, and money for terrorists, but utterly betrays our national security and put lives of all Filipinos in close danger,” the group said.

Lane Afable, secretary-general, said that BS is openly practiced for many importations, many of which are highly-questionable in declarations, classifications, and valuations, that are supposed subject of rigid scrutiny and inventory to safeguard national security and lives of our citizenry.

“The BS is 100% smuggling being neither protected by any provision of law nor covered by any international treaty; and plenty of importations that have suspicious statuses are processed under it for it is exempted from scrutiny before its exit from customs premises,” Afable said.

Afable expressed fear that through the BS, illegal drugs, firearms, and even Weapons of Mass Destructions (WMD) can slip past BOC easily and could end up at the hands of drug dealers and cells of terrorists now in sanctuary in the country.

Under BS, Licensed Customs Brokers (LCBs) who covertly work with The Center bared that: A 20-footer CV can exit freely from BOC after paying P60,000 while payment for a 40-footer CV is P80,000. All necessary scrutiny checks under BS are waived that even contrabands can feely enter our territory, thus, too alarming.

The Center’s secretary-general said that Biazon’s failure to stop BS aggravates fear by millions of Filipinos from ugly impacts of smuggling wherein possibility of unchecked and extensive entry of illegal drugs, its widespread proliferation, and unabated arrivals of terrorist funds, arms and ammunitions can happen anytime.
“The BS promotes the furtherance of corruption, abets pervasive smuggling, and opens favorable opportunities for international drugs syndicates to operate globally and for terrorists to freely import drugs and needed funds and firearms into the country, respectively,” he said.

Intel BOC records bare that many times, it seized many kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu in Container Vans (CV). Last January 25, 2012 some P37.5-million worth of shabu chemicals and equipment were seized in the Port of Manila. Data bares that a total of at least 61 kilos of imported shabu worth P305-million were seized from January to present.

Last June 16, a Malaysian couple from Hongkong was nabbed for possession of 6 kilos of shabu, with a street value of P30 million, while trying to slip past Customs and enter the country at the Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Some 450,000 Iraqi Dinars, believed to be a support fund remittance for a terrorist individual based in Mindanao and was consigned to a certain Armando Habito of Dasmarinas, Cavite, was uncovered hidden inside an ukay-ukay jacket by agents of Customs in Subic based on a report by former Subic Customs District Collector Andres Salvacion.

“Corrupt BOC officials usually use BS as their useful tool to exact huge “Tara” (bribe money) from smugglers. Moreover, it is used as crooked reason by some officials in BOC, citing that it helps the agency hit its assigned monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue collection targets,” he said.

The BS defies all lawful processes in BOC such as proper assessment, correct x-ray procedures, and scrutiny as strictly required by the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

The BS, according to Afable, was a scheme perfected by corrupt BOC officials during the Arroyo administration — not to meet revenue targets — but to hit “Tara” requirements demanded by equally-corrupt men in the past administration.

Latest data bare that at least P150-million in “Tara” per day goes into the pockets of corrupt BOC personnel which are provided by smugglers for the protection of their weekly and regular questionable shipments.

Shipments under the BS bear: fake invoices, fake bill of lading, and even fake Asian Free Trade Agreement certificate, in serious violations to the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

Afable said, the issue against the BS is too legitimate that Biazon must act at effectively and urgently as it is his noble public duty to protect the state and Filipino people.