The claim of Customs Commissioner Alberto D. Lina that balikbayan boxes are being used for smuggling arms and illegal drugs has no basis on record.
This was learned after Bureau of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa for Intelligence admitted there was no case on record and proof that firearms and drugs smuggling were done through balikbayan boxes last year.
“Now we found out that your intelligence department has no record of any balikbayan box ever containing drugs or arms. I am happy that you have retracted this policy. When are you going to apologize to our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers)? When are you going to admit to your mistake? When are you going to realize na parang hindi na Pilipino ang galaw na ito. This is being unkind to the people that are keeping our economy alive,” he told Lina during the hearing on the issue of random inspection of balikbayan boxes by the BoC conducted by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
At the onset of the hearing, Marcos chided BOC officials for making unfounded statements about OFWs regarding misuse of and smuggling via balikbayan boxes as he urged Lina to issue a public apology to the country's modern-day heroes.
"I am glad that he showed sufficient humility in accepting the significant lapses of the BoC by apologizing to our OFWs during this morning's public hearing. However, it must still be made of public record that in so far as the Intelligence Unit of the BoC is concerned, smuggling of drugs and firearms through balikbayan boxes is virtually non-existent," Marcos said.
Marcos also drew an admission from Lina that no consultations were made with the OFW sector nor with government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas that traditionally deal with Filipinos overseas.
"Everything was done arbitrarily, abruptly and aggressively without public consultations leading to all kinds of insinuations landing at the innocent OFW's doorstep. Commissioner Lina also admitted that random checks on balikbayan boxes was his brainchild, brought on by loose and unverified reports of smuggling done through balikbayan boxes," Marcos pointed out.
"I am glad that the Senate hearing served its purpose of clarifying all these issues so that we can all move on and work for the immediate passage of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act," he said.