By Maila Ager | Inquirer.net
Contrary to its pronouncement, the Bureau of Customs (BoC) has no record of a single balikbayan box that contained either firearms or drugs to justify the opening of boxes returning Filipinos send to the Philippines.
No less than Customs Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa, head of the BoC’s intelligence, admitted this during the joint hearing of the Senate committee on ways and means with the committee on labor, employment and human resources development.
“How many cases do you have on record that a balikbayan box contained arms or drugs?” Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. asked.
“Hindi po arms, commercial goods,” Dellosa said.
(Not arms, but commercial goods)
“Hindi yan ang ginawa nyong dahilan kung bakit ninyo ginawa ito. Ang public pronouncement nyo ay ginagamit ang mga balikbayan boxes upang magpasok ng arms at droga…How many balikbayan boxes have you opened that contained arms or drugs?” Marcos further asked.
(That was not the reason you offered for justifying [the opening of balikbayan boxes]. Your public pronouncement was that balikbayan boxes are being used to smuggle arms and drugs [in the country]… How many balikbayan boxes have you opened that contained arms or drugs?)
“So far, your honor, negative sa mga balikbayan boxes,” Dellosa said.
(So far, your honor, the balikbayan boxes appear negative [of containing arms or drugs])
“So far sa record namin wala kung balikbayan ang pag uusapan,” he added.
(So far, in our records, there are [no such cases] as far as [balikbayan boxes] are concerned.)
Marcos then directed his question to Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina regarding the basis of his statement that the balikbayan boxes are being used to smuggle arms and drugs when there was no such incident recorded by his own investigative arm in the BoC.
“I started only as your commissioner in the last three months when there were some reports that I received that it [will be] used for the smuggling of drugs…some of those reports are coming in from different calls…” said Lina.
But Marcos said, “You know, if I was a competitor of somebody, I will say that my competitor is smuggling arms and guns para guluhin ang buhay nya [to mess with him] but that doesn’t mean it’s true, it’s just a call.”
The senator further pressed Lina to cite a specific case of a balikbayan box that contained arms or drugs but the customs official could not give him an answer except for saying that they received reports and that they have actual apprehensions at the airport.
Asked again if the apprehension involved a balikbayan box, Lina simply said: “That’s coming from our enforcement group. We have a copy of our apprehension.”