John Sevilla, the newly appointed chief of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), like in a basketball game, made this week a crowd pleasing play of his version of slam dunk shot.
The slam dunk for John Sevilla is the double-digit spike, a whopping 19 percent, in the bureau’s collection in November – January 2014, compared to 4.76 climbs in collection on January – October 2013. Sevilla said, “These are encouraging initial results. The numbers tell us the reform program is starting to work”. People seem to expect more of these “slam dunk” plays from the newly appointed chief of BOC.
BOC’s bureau chiefs come and go. Nearly all of them, upon assumption to office projected one style of play to impress. Aided by “hao-siao” journalist, media men acting as public relations agents of smugglers and unscrupulous BOC personnel, fixers and middlemen, the newly appointed BOC chief would get himself for a photo op showing him as if in an entrapment operation inspecting cargoes or shipments that had been confiscated. And also, showing off some slight increase in the bureau’s collection. After that, that’s it! Corruption, as usual in the BOC.
John Sevilla, on the other hand, deviated from that traditional kind of play. He introduced a new style, shot with “slam dunk” effect. He enforced, “No ID, No entry” for the media covering the bureau, and strictly scrutinized people who wanted to secure a media ID. This prevented the “hao-siao” journalist to loiter around the BOC’s premises.
Upon assumption of office, John Sevilla spotted right away the salient blemish that hampered the bureau’s collection of right duties on imports: Value of imports was not organized systematically, and the nationwide collection district does not have uniform valuation reference. Because of unshared data, the mandate of bureau’s operation, accreditation and audit is seriously affected. This problem wouldn’t be solved overnight, but, Sevilla said, the BOC would develop alternative sources of data valuation of principal imports. Apparently, the former head of Import Assessment System (IAS) carted off all the data in her possession. This lady boss is one of those sacked from the BOC and get parked in the Customs Policy Research Office of the Department of Finance.
Exposing persons who run the virtual operations of the BOC within the BOC on the importation of the two commodities, (rice and plastic resin) to the media is another slam dunk play of John Sevilla. He named names like that of David Bangayan or David Tan, known to the bureau as a rice smuggler, and “Ma’am T,” or Ma’am Tina, “Tina Yu” for short, as the plastic resin importer. David Bangayan alias David Tan, surfaces on the threat he would be killed by Rodrigo Duterte, the mayor of Davao City. During the Senate hearing of rice smuggling, Bangayan was charged with perjury for lying his identity as the real David Tan.
More than P5 billion a year is lost to BOC because of the undervaluation of the imported plastic resin. Front businesses, firms and consignees, use the influence of “Ma’am T” within the BOC to regulate the volume of imports, withdrawing or bringing in more shipment to meet the monthly custom’s collection targets under the mutually agreed “tara system,” meaning, determined amount of grease money that should go to the BOC personnel.
The filing of cases against smugglers and tightening the noose on shipment plugging in the leak of undervaluation and misclassification of imported goods, is John Sevilla’s regular stunt of “slam dunk” play.
On John Sevilla’s stint at the BOC, one can imagine the rhythm of Clint Eastwood famous dialogue. People would as if prodding Sevilla to: “Go ahead slam dunk, make Juan dela Cruz day.”