‘Balikbayan box protest reflects lack of trust in gov’t ‘

MANILA — Lack of trust in the government is the main reason behind the howl of protest raised by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) against the Bureau of Customs (BOC) plan to conduct random checks on balikbayan boxes, an OFW party-list organization said yesterday.

Rep. Johnny Revilla said years of “terrible experiences at the hands of corrupt BOC men” fueled the anger among Filipino workers who have been toiling abroad for their families. “It’s all about trust. And right now, the government doesn’t have it,” he said.

Revilla said the government’s inability to address complaints of pilferage of balikbayan boxes and corruption added to the furor against efforts of the BOC to inspect balikbayan boxes.

“Our OFWs just do not trust the BOC or this government. Even before this issue incited the collective anger of OFWs, we were already made aware of the various problems faced by those sending packages to their loved ones in the country,” said Revilla.

“Families of OFWs report lost items, incidents of overcharging of duties, and unreasonable delays in the release of their boxes. These horror stories are so commonplace that you cannot blame our OFWs if they have little faith in the capacity of the BOC to stop abuses in the course of doing its job,” the legislator explained.

The balikbayan inspection controversy brought attention to the urgent need to “bring fresh, untainted leadership to Customs and our government,” Revilla said. “As long as we have leaders who are suspected of using the agency for campaign fund-raising and other shenanigans, their actions, even well-intentioned, will always be considered suspect.”

The OFW advocate said that at this point, “Sen. Grace Poe and Sen. Chiz Escudero appear to have an edge in presenting themselves as leaders our people can trust.”

“In numerous hearings at the Senate, the two have shown that the only agenda they’re interested in is protecting the welfare of our citizens. People see that, which is why they are the two most trusted officials in the land,” said the solon.

According to a Pulse Asia Survey conducted in June, Poe had the highest approval rating at 93 percent. Following her was Escudero with 83 percent.

In response to public outcry regarding the issue, the BOC has already been ordered by Malacañang to halt the random or arbitrary physical inspection of balikbayan boxes.

Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Alberto Lina said he remains unfazed and is not about to vacate his post. “I am okay. I’m enjoying my job here, exciting!” he said.

“A lot of things have to be done in Customs,” he said. Some people will get affected by the reforms, he added.

Affected Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their families vented their ire on the BOC, especially after it imposed a tax on the championship belt of Filipina boxer Jujeath Nagaowa.