`Timely’ to reopen DEA vs corruption, security threats

IT WOULD be better for the Bureau of Customs to reopen the designated examination area (DEA) in the city that it closed down in 2010 to fight corruption and fend off security threats, its operator said.

Rodolfo C. Reta, operator of the Aquarius Container Yard, said that the reopening of his DEA will help government flag illegal shipments as well as improve revenue collections.  “The government needs it now as the BOC needs all the help if it wants to fight smuggling,” Reta said as his DEA was mentioned when the Senate called on Vice Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte and lawyer Manases R. Carpio to a hearing in relation to the smuggling activities in the agency.

In his testimony before the Senate last week, Carpio, one of Reta’s lawyers, told the senators that they met with then BOC commissioner Nicanor E. Faeldon during the latter’s short stint at the agency to brief him about the importance of the DEA to the BOC operations.

Civil society groups have also been pushing for the reopening of the DEA as part of the mechanism to stop corruption in the agency

Reta said he was “thankful to Atty. Carpio because he has been helping me in bringing my case to the consciousness of the national government.”

It was in 2015 when Carpio, husband of Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio, joined Reta’s legal team after a “lengthy due diligence” following the closure of the DEA.

Based on the documents available, in 2009, the national government decided to sign a memorandum of agreement with Reta for the operations of the DEA, which hosts a P250-million x-ray machine and other facilities for the inspection, for 25 years.

The reason for the memorandum of agreement was for the BOC to have a space where it could put the x-ray machine “free of charge” and inspect cargoes, particularly those placed on alert. In return, Reta would provide the trucking services.

Another reason for the signing of the agreement was to stop the entry of contrabands as the BOC commissioner at that time, Napoleon L. Morales even alerted the port to inspect empty containers. “Effective immediately, all empty containers entering the port of Davao shall be a subject of a mandatory x-ray examination,” said Morales in his letter dated December 11, 2009.

The collector of the port of Davao at that time of the signing of the agreement, Ronnie C. Silvestre, said that with the DEA, the BOC could easily achieve its collection target as it would be able to collect the right revenues on cargos.

In February 2010, based on documents, Reta informed the BOC about a cargo which was declared as construction materials, but which was suspected to be containing rice.

To his surprise, however, instead of appreciating his effort, the collector at that time, Anju Nereo Castigador, ordered the closure of his DEA on the ground that he was not doing his part of the agreement. The cargo proved to be rice which the BOC decided to auction off.

Reta suspected that his DEA was closed down because some groups could not bring in their smuggled cargoes as he was strict in implementing the provisions of the contract he signed with the BOC. “They could not include me in their tara system (bribery system), so they decided to shut down the DEA,” he explained.

The “tara” system, which has also become the issue in the Senate hearing at present, is a scheme where those players within the BOC would divide among them the bribe that they would get in the entry of cargoes, be they legal or illegal.

This prompted Reta to file cases against Castigador and some other officials of the BOC, which resulted in the official’s termination from service. Other officials were either terminated or suspended as Castigador has appealed his case before the higher courts which have yet to finally decide on it.

In March 2014, a cargo of cocaine was found inside an empty container van in a private yard in the city. Reta said the finding of the illegal drug cargo was due to the failure of the BOC to follow the order of Mr. Morales as stated in the letter of the latter in 2009.

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