The Bureau of Customs (BoC) overhaul as President Rody Duterte would want it will require a deep extraction process short of abolition of the agency to root out the corruption mafia.
The mafia can be compared to a demonic possession that has taken over the life cycle of an individual that needed exorcism.
The previous yellow administration, as it is its wont, exploited for its benefit instead of seek a solution to the pervasive corruption problem in the agency.
Take the case of the rice cartel which relied heavily on its built-in network at the BoC to thrive.
A person known interchangeably as Davidson Bangayan or David Tan was an untouchable in the previous regime despite the many witnesses, including then Rody, who was then Davao City mayor who pointed out that the notorious smuggler Tan is in fact also Bangayan.
Several investigations after, including one held by the Senate, did not result in the prosecution of Bangayan not that it is an oddity since even now Senate probes do not result in more than grandstanding from the senators.
Bangayan was accosted but later released since the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) supposedly cannot place whether Tan was indeed Bangayan.
Businessman Jess Arranza then produced a proof that Tan and Bangayan were the same person through a duly signed and notarized complaint affidavit of Davidson Bangayan against him for libel.
The libel case stemmed from a Singaporean who approached him for help in complaining against “Davidson Bangayan a.k.a. David Tan” regarding their transaction on scrap metals.
Bangayan was then engaged in scrap metal trading through a company he owned, named Advanced Scrap Specialist Corp. Arranza then had a radio program with former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile where the Singaporean’s complaint was mentioned.
He filed a libel complaint against Arranza which stated, “Clearly, the foregoing publicity categorically imputed to me and the company Advanced Scrap Specialists Corp. the following wrongful acts, namely, swindling, contraband shipment…and the identification of the person referred to in the publication definitely referred to me considering that there is no other person by the name of Davidson Bangayan a.k.a. David Tan.”
The affidavit was the smoking gun to nail Bangayan but the Department of Justice (DoJ) then under now detained Sen. Leila de Lima returned the case to the NBI and no development happened afterwards.
Rody also appeared during the Senate hearing to testify that he was definite about Bangayan and Tan as the same alleged rice smuggler.
Duterte demanded the resignation of De Lima during one of the probe sessions for letting Tan walk after the NBI arrested him.
Tan a.k.a. Bangayan was present during the hearings but he was cock sure of getting protection that his arrogance earned him a ticket to the Senate detention room for his obvious lies.
Then Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla then cited loopholes in the law being used to obtain injunction orders that allow grains shipments being held at the pier. The injunction orders were being issued even before the shipments arrive.
Instead of Tan being made to suffer, it was eventually Sevilla who was shown the door and replaced with businessman Bert Lina, who is known to be a member of the business triumvirate of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and former Customs Chief Angelito Alvarez.
Alvarez was memorable for some 2,000 container vans that disappeared in one instance under his watch.
Sevilla, a former finance undersecretary, said in one of the interviews held after his unceremonious booting from then President Noynoy Aquino said he can’t allow “certain political forces to use the agency for their ends.” He subsequently retracted his statement.
The NBI recently refiled the case against Tan who can be sure this time around that he won’t have any of his yellow backers helping him out.