Columnist, Dyaryo Magdalo
Gen. Danny Lim, author of hunger

Customs story


This is one word that can best describe as to what is happening now at the Bureau of Customs.

         Frustration pervades at the Bureau of Customs if we see the looks and hear the sounds of what are happening to intelligence agents, players, employees, and even many journalists in the Bureau.

       The hao-shiao Customs employees no longer get the weekly “tara,” so are the journalists who gather things other than news.  The intelligence agents are no longer getting their pays from smuggling operators.

        The genuine employees are also shocked because what was once seemingly endless streams of money flowing to their pockets have stopped.  In other words, “hunger” is now staring at these persons who for decades have tasted opulence, employees as low as messenger or filing clerks who have used to driving luxury cars, reporters who get their Friday pays from different officials and smuggling cronies, etc.

          They are all now emotionally protesting in silence. They never thought it takes only one man to cause their sudden loss of display of extravagance even in times of economic crisis.

They all blame their extreme miseries to one and only one man.

They now curse Deputy Customs Commissioner Danny Lim, a former scout ranger general who has been reputed to have refused the hundreds of millions of pesos offered him during the previous administration in exchange for his cooperation and instead chose imprisonment after the plan to withdraw support to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was uncovered.

Oue language is truth, our spirit is liberty
When President Benigno Simeon “P-Noy” Aquino III appointed former General Lim, he begged to be placed in other agencies because all men who came to the Customs left with integrity and honor crushed beyond repair.

        But when P-Noy insisted he had no other person he can trust for the job, Danny acceded in the name of being a “good soldier” being ordered by the Commander-in-Chief to go for a mission.

     Indeed he accepted the mission easily considered as “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.”
       Slowly, General Lim worked his way in and succeeded to keep his reputation for honesty and integrity.  He refused all offers of millions of pesos in daily take that would be more than sufficient for his needs if he ever runs for senator in 2013.

  Many prominent figures in the BOC, including officials and usual suspects, have already felt the incoming drought that would put them in a situation they are like in the middle of a desert food and water are just like sifting a needle from the sand grains.

Barely two months into the office as DepCom for Intelligence on September 16, 2011, signs of success showed up for Lim: Cracks in the once mighty “Great Wall of China” began to appear.

Lim politely turned down bribe offers of port players for the release of their imported goods without payment of exact duties and taxes.

Then, Lim wholeheartedly talked to reporters sincerely telling them that he can’t extend financial favors to their needs for he too is surviving within his own limits.
The logo of he volunteers for Danny Lim

Lim’s order to the organic Customs intelligence agents, men who have been there at the Customs before his appointment, to stay away from port operations is a cavalier act of a true be-medaled soldier who, in his former life, fought against the rebels in the mountains and Muslim separatists in Southern Mindanao where bullets sent him to hospital bed twice.

He is aware that his actions will turn some friends to enemies. But thinking this might be his last opportunity to once more serve the country with dignity, Lim does what exactly he must do.

As if we heard him saying: “If not today, when? If not me, who?”

For Lim, the Bureau of Customs is just a new battlefield.

The only difference is Lim is not fighting against rebels with blazing bullets. But now he is at war against the decades-entrenched crooked system at the Bureau of Customs.

Lim believes that today is the appropriate day to put an end to stories of corruption in the bureau, and, at the same time, disprove the belief that corruption is systemic and cannot be weeded out.

Actually, Lim does the cleansing in his new found arena with relative ease. First, he has not baggage that could compel him to do against his plan. Except perhaps his acts of leading a unit of the military against then President Cory Aquino in the 1989 coup d’etat, there is no other acts of him that can be said to be a crime or morally wrong.  That is, although the truth of the matter was that he was not against Cory but against the ineptness galvanized by the men and women surrounding her.

He rightly put action in accordance with his statement quoted in toto:

“We have no baggage, we are clean. Nothing is stopping us from implementing what is necessary. Also, the sabotage plans of some people are expected. We will be on the lookout. Some will try to offer and seduce but it all boils down to character. Our integrity must be solid and moral values should hold so that we don't enter into that.”

Against bribery

In standing firm on his advocacy for the smooth flow of transaction in the Bureau of Customs that is actually far from the anomalous processes for the immediate release of imported goods, Deputy Commissioner Lim encourages the importers to refrain from offering or giving bribes to the Customs officials and employees.
The memo sent out by Lim warning vs bribery

And for the realization of his advocacy, Lim offers the services of his office to port players who might be harassed by Customs men for not giving them the weekly “tara” or per container deal.  He even gave them his cellular phone numbers to contact him directly and immediately.

He clarifies that his restriction is to encourage port players to play clean with the government in their payment of proper duties and taxes in accordance with the provision of the tariff law and not to give unnecessary delays to their import processes.

The statement directed by Lim to port players is with a goal to eradicate smuggling despite claims that ending smuggling is impossible since the Philippines was discovered by the Spaniards in the year 1521.

Lim is trying his dead best to dislodge this impossibility despite the failures of the predecessors who coined themselves anti-smuggling czars to end up real czars, a term that means “king,” enjoying hundreds of millions of pesos in their pockets.

In reminding the importers, Lim reiterates to never and never give “tara” or bribes to anyone who drops his name.

 “Let it be public knowledge that I neither asked for tara nor appointed anyone to solicit it for myself or for my office.”

Rumors they might be, but Lim is alarmed when rumors spread like wildfire that he sent individuals to solicit bribes in his name, and “some of it was already earmarked for pickup by my representative.”

While clinching his fist with fury due to rumors that tainted his integrity, Lim seriously warned the port players, saying:

“To all concerned, beware. Bribery is a crime. All other related crimes that are a result of bribery have corresponding severe penalties under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines (RPCP).

“This authority will not hesitate to seek the harshest penalty under the RPCP, if conditions call for it and are necessary.”

Reporters fasten belts

The once feasting reporters in the Bureau of Customs are now tightening their belts to the next hole as the amount of money they are receiving from illicit transactions is cut. The week-by-week “allowances” have been stripped.

Known broadcasters and opinion writers who have appointed collectors for them are not spared.

As these media men feel the scarcity of weekly survival, some reporters who publish their weekly Customs’ paper have failed to print their papers on time. Others have turned their weeklies to monthly printing.

Agony can be heard from them as they voiced out their sentiments to the present setup at the Bureau that for decades has been lorded over by vultures preying on container vans as their sure and big milking cows.

Their agony commenced when Lim told reporters he has no money, not even a peso to extend to them in order to get good news.  He politely told them, he could not do otherwise if he is criticized or being hit even with false news.  “I would rather had criticisms than praise releases that are not true.”

These reporters were hit directly because the first who were smashed by Lim were the port players who are the ones who hand grease money for the smooth release of their cargoes without payment of correct duties and taxes and for the reporters to keep their silence on what they saw.

There were reporters who asked Lim favor for the release of container vans of their benefactors, friends, kumpadres, and family, but Lim has learned to shake his head while answering, “Pasensya muna.”

But Lim is quick to help them if the papers and imports are legal and not mis-declared or undervalued.

A former official of a national organization of reporters who bragged his friendship with Lim asked favor for the release of the container vans held by the intelligence men of Lim. But he was turned down by the former commanding general of the Philippine Army Scout Rangers.

Among those who also sought favors from Lim were four prominent journalists feared by government officials because the sharpness of their tongues and pens that bit to the bones. 

However, Lim is out to prove that having no ambition to live a lavish life has kept him contented with the allowances and salaries he gets. 

He once proved that integrity and honor are priceless not even hundreds of millions of pesos dangled on him during Arroyo’s time can buy.

Finding for a new path

All influences have been tried by peddlers for the release of contrabands. But all these failed. He even fired his own man, a long-time friend who is a former military officer who even helped him raise funds for his failed senatorial campaign in 2013.

Because all tricks have been tried but failed, the players are now plotting to find a new path, “Ibang Daan” for “Matuwid Na Daan” is closed for them.

So that big-time players held meetings discussing and planning on how to go about General Lim.

Every day has been a busy day for port players. But last week was not only a busy day, it was also their grilling moment: their container vans were still held inside the port despite the monies that were already given out.

The smugglers talked inside the Sulu Hotel discussing on who to turn to in silencing their clamoring clients.

All of them are looking for somebody who can convince Lim to release their container vans.

But no one has been found until this writing.

The smugglers are pressured by the fact that their men within the Manila ports, especially those assigned in the Intelligence Group, have been ordered by Lim to stay away from port operations.

The order was due to their scandalous involvement to the illegal release of container vans he had already ordered to be put on alert. 
Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon

One such incident was the release of 20 of the 28 vans that he ordered to be put on hold.  When he ordered for the quick transmittal of the order for approval by Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, he found out that the organic agents tasked to do so were deliberately delaying the transmittal.

He learned that in coming to the Commissioner’s office, there was already a slow motion.  Upon reaching the Commissioner’s office, an official there inside deliberately left or did other things to pretend to be busy, causing the transmitted alert orders to be staying for long. When 20 of the 28 alerted vans were released, that was only the time when that official handed to Biazon the alert orders for final approval.

With this incident, Lim established that the agents tasked were in cahoots with the owners or brokers of those released vans.

Feeling that their illegal trade can be further affected by pestilence, the smugglers are now one in a decision. 

They are now funding a plot to get the attention of President Benigno Simeon “P-Noy” Aquino III and convince him to remove Lim from that office.

Other moves that they are making now are to divert their contraband to the Ports of Zamboanga and General Santos City, thinking that Lim cannot reach them there because of limited financial resources that have kept Lim focus only on Manila ports.

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