Customs officials open to lifestyle checks

MANILA, Philippines— Officials of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said they have no objections to being subjected to intensified lifestyle checks to weed out corruption, they however said that officials from other agencies should also undergo the same checks.

The Department of Finance (DOF), which has suppervision of the BOC, said late last year that it would intensify efforts to end corruption including checking bank accounts, as part of lifestyle checks on bureau officials on the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Public office is a public trust and government employees are accountable to the people,” said lawyer Lourdes Mangaoang, a senior collector assigned in BOC’s Revenue Collection and Monitoring Group who voiced her approval of the measure.

Lifestyle checks is “one of the means by which corruption can be eradicated,” she added.

The attorney noted that a government employee may be subjected to a lifestyle check under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Ethical Standards and Code of Conduct for Government Employees, and Civil Service Law.

The DOF’s anti-corruption arm, the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) implements lifestyle checks on officials from BOC as well as the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Specifically, they  look for unexplained wealth and evidence that officials are living beyond their means based on their filed Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs).

“We have to be smart about catching corrupt people. You cannot always catch them like, you know, playing cops and robbers. We have to catch them by …checking their lifestyle, checking their bank accounts, checking how many cars they own,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said when the lifestyle checks were announced.

Mangaoang, who is also the President of the BOC Collectors’ Association, said however that these lifestyle checks should be applied throughout the government.

“There are other collection agencies which are tainted by corruption… The Office of the Ombudsman releases a yearly report which names the 10 most corrupt government agencies. Lifestyle checks should also be conducted on employees of those agencies and the BOC and BIR should not be singled out,” she said.

Time to adjust

The BOC is currently undergoing a reshuffle involving several district collectors and section chiefs. Several officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).  have assumed key posts in BOC this month.

Meanwhile, 30 section chiefs from the Formal Entry Divisions of the Port of Manila (POM) and Manila International Container Port (MICP) were reassigned to other provincial collection districts.

For her part, BOC Employees Union President Remedios Princesa said that custom officials are used to lifestyle checks but time should be allotted to allow the BOC to normalize operations. She suggested that the lifestyle checks be done early next year.

“Bigyan muna nila panahon na maging maayos takbo ng bureau. Huwag sabay-sabay. Napakadami ng burdens sa BOC, (They should give time to allow for the efficient running of the bureau. Don’t do at the same time. The BOC is already carrying a lot of burden),” she said.—