CUSTOMS BROKERS said they reject any attempts by the government to pin blame on them for corruption at the Bureau of Customs, with the industry saying it will “fight” to defend the livelihood of its nearly 12,000 licensed members and proposed instead that Malacañang focus on modernizing the bureau’s systems.
Officials from the Chamber of Customs Brokers were responding Tuesday to a threat from President Rodrigo R. Duterte to remove the accreditation of brokers in order to “cut corruption overnight.”
“They can expect a fight from us licensed Customs Brokers. We are 11,900 strong,” Chamber of Customs Brokers president Adones S. Carmona said in an interview on ANC television.
He added that brokers go through a thorough training and vetting process to obtain their professional licenses.
“What will be affected are the students who enrolled in (the) Bachelor of Science in Customs Administration (program) in over 85 universities and schools… It’s a four-year course and they need to review for a six-month period for the licensure examination… We will really fight head on because we are fighting for our profession and for our survival.”
The President’s Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo did not immediately reply when asked to comment.
Philippine Association of Customs Brokers in Education president Norberto V. Castillo said in the same program that if the government is serious about fighting corruption in the BoC, it should “upgrade the technology and professionalize the ranks (of the bureau).”
He noted that the President cannot simply order the removal of brokers because the government is bound by law to implement the Customs Brokers Act of 2004.
In a news conference at the Palace last week, Mr. Duterte said: “Take away the brokers and you would have cut corruption overnight.”
“Itong sa Customs, ang gusto ko, wala na ang brokers. Pagka may brokers, may corruption talaga ‘yan. Ngayon, sinasabi ko, sabihin mo sa Pilipino, kung gusto talaga nila walang corruption, tanggalin na natin ‘yan… (I want brokers gone from Customs. When you have brokers, you have corruption. I want to tell the people that their removal is key to eliminating corruption)” the President added.
Mr. Carmona said Customs brokers should not be singled out when corruption is also rampant in other government agencies. “It is unfair because the President had singled us out. There is corruption in the government… in the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue). Will he also do away with the CPAs (Certified Public Accountants)? In PhilHealth, do they do away with medical practitioners?” he said.
Mr. Duterte, in his annual address to Congress in July, denounced persistent government corruption, noting the recent unearthing of massive fraud in the public health insurance system.
“Huge amounts of medical funds were released to cover padded medical claims and imaginary treatment of ghost patients. I am grossly disappointed,” he said.
The President also claimed to have fired and caused the resignation of more than a hundred officials and appointees of government “without regard to relationship, friendship and alliance.”
He also promised a comprehensive cleanup at the BoC. — Arjay L. Balinbin