POSTSCRIPT / June 21, 2007 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why Atienza son lost Manila mayorship bid

AKAY-AKAY: When we amateur political analysts meet over coffee and presume to dispense opinion on the last elections, one question invariably asked is why the son of Manila Mayor Lito Atienza lost in his bid to take over his father’s seat.

It does not require genius to answer that one. Just picture Lito holding by the elbow his son Ali in flowery costume, guiding him through the political maze of the capital city. Akay-akay po ni Lito ang anak, para bang di makalakad na mag-isa.

Now, why will a proud Manileño vote for a boy who cannot stand on his own and has to lean on his father solicitously wiping his runny nose?

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WHODUNIT?: At Customs, just like in the Commission on Elections, there are crimes without criminals.

If election returns, certificates of canvas and ballot boxes and their contents disappear just like that with nobody being punished for it, valuable shipments in huge container vans vanish like bubbles at Customs.

Or if imports do not disappear altogether, they are undervalued or misdeclared to escape paying proper duties. This is why despite the increase in the volume of imports, collections dip and Customs falls short of its revenue targets.

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SHINY FLOUR: Smuggling is not carried out only in the dead of night or in forlorn, far-flung beaches. It happens right at our key ports, in broad daylight, in the Bureau of Customs area itself.

An unholy trinity of importers, brokers and customs personnel has a merry time underpricing, undervaluing or misdeclaring shipments. Documents are altered and numbers of official forms are tampered with impunity.

For instance, thousands of tons of wheat flour routinely come in undervalued, underweight or misdeclared as something else enjoying low duty rating.

One such recent case is that of a firm identified as Akiko Shine Fabric that reportedly brought in nine containers of wheat flour last April.

Commodity inspectors of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Philippine Industry noticed the discrepancy in weight. Instead of the usual 25 kgs per bag, Akiko Shine’s documents showed that the goods weighed only 8 kgs per bag.

Together with Customs personnel, PCCI men opened a container van that yielded flour. The bags had “25 kgs” printed on them despite the 8-kg declaration.

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SCOT-FREE: So the crooks were caught red-handed and punished? No sir!

Before the PCCI/FPI personnel could get authority to seize the shipment, four of the nine containers were slipped out of Customs.

Two containers — numbered MOAU 6713157 and MOAU 6713080 — were loaded on trucks with license plate Nos. PFT 192 and PBJ 151 and released on April 13. Both trucks were listed as owned by Jcard Trans Services.

The next day, two more containers — MOAU 6713136 and MOAU 6711410 — were spirited out on trucks bearing plate Nos. TWX 768 and PXN 655.

Like in the movies, the 20-foot containers just rolled out of Customs while everybody was looking but apparently not seeing anything.

When Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales called in the examiners and other responsible personnel to explain how the commodity slipped out, no one could tell him. Suddenly everyone had clean hands and a poor memory.

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PHILCOMSAT LOOTING: Re our June 19 Postscript on the reported looting of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. and its subsidiary the Philcomsat Holdings Corp., lawyer Rene Saguisag representing one of the two groups claiming control of the PHC, emailed this rejoinder:

�What Senate report on Philcomsat? If there was, it must be a �midnight report’ slipped in during the last day of session last June 7 when no senator could have understood the complex issues in minutes. There was no joint hearing of two committees but only of the panel headed by Sen. Gordon. There was not a single hearing when there was a quorum because the other attendee, Sen. Enrile has said he was inhibiting himself on grounds of conflict-of-interest (but he went on and on participating anyway, badgering witnesses etc.). The Kenkoy report protects the cronies of Marcos, such as the Ilusorios, whose forebear is still talked about because of the Dovey Beams tape. It serves the interest of Sen. Enrile who claims to have an investment in Philcomsat (the PCGG challenges this in the Sandiganbayan).

�The group which gloriously ran to the ground POTC and Philcomsat says it does not even have money for an audit. It now wants to take over profitable Philcomsat Holdings worth P1.4-B. A conservative estimate of the monthly projected gross income for 2007 of its newest venture is P9,680,000. PHC is associated here with a respected and successful businessman who would not lend his name and prestige to the venture were it what it is mischaracterized by the Bildner group. Why wasn’t said group asked to account for its admission that POTC and Philcomsat are losing money, when these companies were asset-rich (P8-B) when her group illegally took over in 2000? Now it cannot even afford an audit.

�Too bad the author of the resolution to probe never attended any of the illegal hearings. Sen. Santiago could have reminded Sen. Gordon that his committee was to conduct hearings only in aid of legislation, not of prosecution, which by tradition is the province of the Blue Ribbon Committee, and not of promotion of a member’s financial interests, either. The hearings were a disgrace.

“We may need to go unicameral; in a counterpart hearing in the House, Chair Danny Suarez gave proper regard to the human rights of the guests who were kicked around in the Senate.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 21, 2007)

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