Sen. Bongbong urges Lina: "Apologize to our OFWs"

26 August 2015

Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. urged Customs bureau chief Alberto Lina to issue a public apology to all overseas Filipino workers in light of his agency's catastrophic communications blunder that jeopardized the image and reputation of Filipinos overseas.

Sen. Bongbong cited the clarification issued by Lina after Lina's meeting with President Aquino and Secretary Purisima that the real target of the Bureau of Customs in its campaign for random checks on balikbayan boxes were "erring freight forwarding companies" that have allowed or are complicit in inserting illegal contraband like drugs and firearms into consolidated shipments.

"By linking smuggling to the iconic balikbayan box used by millions of overseas Filipino workers worldwide, the Bureau of Customs has put at risk the reputation and image of our modern-day heroes. A public apology is necessary to correct whatever adverse impression the balikbayan controversy had made on the positive image of our workers overseas. I am sure Commissioner Lina would understand the need to correct such misimpression because the jobs and collective image of our workers may be at stake," the senator from Ilocos Norte and Leyte pointed out.

It was during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos that the balikbayan phenomenon started, when an Executive Order was issued to grant overseas contract workers (OCWs) the right to bring or send home tax-free care packages to their families provided the contents were not of commercial quantity.

Sen. Bongbong said it was not enough that the random checks on balikbayan boxes were halted through a presidential directive. "The presidential directive must find its way into an official document and in the crafting of such document, the OFW sector deserves to be heard. As I've said earlier, no reforms can take place without the cooperation and support of key stakeholders."

The Nacionalista Party stalwart said a public apology was the least that Customs Chief Alberto Lina can do to finally ease the anxieties and anger of millions of OFWs. "This apology must be made of public record so that the foreign employers and host governments would know that OFWs were never the real targets of the BoC's anti-smuggling drive."