Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Philippines Customs - ups and downs

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Philippines Board of Customs does not have a great reputation. The president once called them the Bureau of Corruption, a play on the BOC acronym. April's news that the previous reforming Commissioner of Customs John Sevilla was standing down was greeted with great disappointment in the IP community. He started a major push to reform (see here) This led to the commencement of regular border seizures (as opposed to suspicious inland seizures long after the goods passed through the borders). The change was encouraging. His resignation he said was due to politics, such as apolitical appointees like lawyer Teddy Raval, being made head of BOC’s Intellectual Property Rights Division (IPRD), which he did not approve. He also made it very clear that improving accountability and cleanliness was still a work in progress. He was replaced by Businessman Alberto Lina.
Now a case with suspicious circumstances has exposed certain shady practices. On May 1st Customs officials seized 12 packages of fake medicines for hypertension, heart ailment and vitamin supplements imported from Pakistan and destined for a trader called Jenelyn Higbok in Manila. A formal alert order had been issued by Customs' Intelligence Group seeking further investigation and examination of the packages. However the packages were released on May 7, 2015.  2 Customs officials have now been implicated in this unauthorized release. They have since been dismissed.  The suggestion was that the information was not properly circulated, but in many cases officials are known to be complicit in smuggling.  Fortunately the packages were located and seized again. They will be examined tested by the FDA. Then appropriate forfeiture proceedings should be instituted.

This is perhaps an important statement that the Philippines will not tolerate misbehavior at Customs. One hopes this continues the previous good work of the former director.

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