MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday showed his firm resolve to fight smuggling and corruption as he witnessed the simultaneous condemnation of smuggled luxury vehicles in Manila, Cebu and Davao.
A total of 30 used and brand new luxury cars were destroyed, highlighting the Bureau of Customs (BOC)’s 116th founding anniversary under a theme ‘Moving in One Direction.’
“This smuggling has been going on. It’s more than a century old but this kind of racket has been going on again and again. Well, it has to stop,” President Duterte said in his 50-minute speech he delivered after witnessing the destruction of the 20 luxury cars worth PHP61.6 million inside the BOC compound in Port of Manila.
Duterte said he carried the trust of the Filipino people and he had to fulfil his election campaign promise to stop graft and corruption in the government.
He lauded the BOC officials and employees led by Commissioner Isidro Lapena for posting an all-time revenue collection in the last quarter of 2017.
According to Lapena’s accomplishment report, the BOC hit PHP40 billion monthly revenue collection from September to December in 2017.
President Duterte’s directive to clean BOC of unscrupulous individuals had resulted in the PHP456.91 billion revenue collection, the highest since 2013, in 2016.
Out of the 30 units of luxury cars such as Lexus, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Jaguar, Corvette Stingray, Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Land Cruiser, 20 were destroyed in Port of Manila, seven in Davao and three in Cebu.
“I am not in front of an incorrigible crowd. I know that most of you are honest, otherwise we have not collected this huge amount,” President Duterte said, drawing applause from BOC family.
Duterte, however, said there was deeply-rooted impression that most of the people in the BOC were corrupt.
“Not all of you are without morality. But even in Davao, you look for beautiful houses, it’s the BIR and the Customs. That’s the sad fact,” the President said.
“Bato-bato sa langit, tamaan ‘wag magalit’. I am just echoing the deep-seated sentiment of the people,” he added.
Duterte had earlier castigated corrupt BOC officials and employees for making huge money out of the smuggled luxury vehicles by conniving with wealthy car enthusiasts who avoided paying correct duties and taxes to the government.
President Duterte warned the government officials and employees not only in the BOC but in all government offices to stop their illegal activities.
“You have to stop, at least during my time,” President said.
For the BOC, President said much remains to be done to make the bureau as one of the top performing agencies of the government.
“It has been a long and challenging journey for the agency as it strove to curb customs fraud and facilitate trade through effective customs management system,” the President said.
“However, much remains to be done. The BOC needs to improve its overall revenue collection to meet its target so that the government will have more funds for its priority development programs,” he added.