SEN. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. scored the Bureau of Customs on Saturday for allegedly using its bureaucratic might against overseas Filipino workers (OFW), sending personal effects to their families through balikbayan boxes.
Marcos said the proposed inspection is a but a guise of an antismuggling campaign.
He is the second lawmaker to take the cudgels for the country’s “modern day heroes,” coming in the wake of Sen. Ralph G. Recto’s proposal to video-tape every balikbayan box undergoing inspection by means of closed-circuit television (CCTV).
Marcos said that the origin of the balikbayan box can be traced to the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos, when Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines was amended to provide duty and tax-free privileges to OFWs so they can send personal effects, including gift items to their families.
“To the BoC, I ask: Have you no shame? For every OFW, a balikbayan box is the equivalent of his or her love letter to a spouse and the rest of the family. Every item inside that box was bought with a specific person and purpose in mind, bought for with the hard-earned money of our modern-day heroes. So if a single item there gets lost, can you imagine how that feels to an Ofw who invested so much emotion and money just to get those goods home?” Marcos said.
The legislator from Ilocos Norte and Leyte warned Customs Commissioner Albert D. Lina against carrying out further restrictions on the use of balikbayan boxes, including a plan to impose taxes or additional fees on forwarding costs for OFW boxes. “Mr. Lina, you are a public servant. It is your duty to consult with stakeholders first, before embarking on any draconian measure that would turn their lives upside-down,” Marcos said.
“You seem bent on bullying our OFWs while turning a blind eye on the large-scale smuggling that goes on in nearly all ports across the archipelago,” he added.
The lawmaker also challenged the BOC to justify its move to open balikbayan boxes at random before the Senate during its forthcoming budget hearings. “Let them defend themselves during the budget deliberations. Specifically, I would like to know how many bigtime smugglers have they managed to put behind bars during the five years under this administration.”
Marcos also cited the need to investigate the perennial shortfall in the collections of the BOC. “Are they planning to impose taxes on balikbayan boxes to make up for their annual collection deficit? he asked.
“In bullying our OFWs, they managed to expose their own internal deficiencies. Ayusin muna nila ang bakuran nila dahil mas nakakapinsala ang korapsyon sa loob ng BOC kesa sa mga balikbayan boxes na pinapadala ng mga lehitimong OFW’s,” Marcos added.