Resounding silence

posted October 04, 2015 at 12:01 am

We know the President has bigger fires to put out these days. That dance number at a congressman’s birthday celebration has given Filipinos more reason to doubt the credibility of the daang-matuwid mantra of the Liberal Party. We can imagine the public relations nightmare the President’s allies must be facing now, especially since said event took place in official oath taking ceremonies for new members of the party and attended by no less than their standard bearer for the 2016 elections and his friends.

But if that was some noisy party, here is one issue that has been conveniently dying down —being killed or dying a natural death, we have no way of knowing. In late August, the former chief of the Land Transportation Office was reported to have visited the office of the Bureau of Customs and negotiated the release of 64 shipping containers of smuggled Thai sugar worth more than P100 million.

A Customs employee, Jerry Ponce, has issued an affidavit narrating how Virginia Torres had called him and sought his help to release the shipments which had been misdeclared. He did meet with her, a fellow member of the powerful religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo, and brought her to the office of the Intelligence Group of the bureau.

Ponce issued his affidavit for fear of being accused of negotiating, on Torres’ behalf, to release the shipment.

Torres, for her part, seemed to have no fear. In fact, she was reported to have dropped names of her friends in high places just to get what she wanted. But she denied being involved in any smugging activity; she said she was merely helping a friend become a Customs player.

Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa was also evasive during the investigation conducted by the House committee on ways and means. The Palace, however, was quick to jump to conclusions and congratulated the Customs bureau for its handling of the issue, and for making sure we do not condone smuggling in our shores and ports.

But do we not, really? Nothing more was heard of this matter, overtaken by events such as the release of survey results, the guessing game provided by putative candidates, and lately, this party scandal. Smuggling has always been a bane to the economy, with the people paying a dear price. Of course, smuggling has been lucrative for a few, especially those who can use campaign funds for the next elections.

Torres, for her part, has been notorious for flaunting her tires with her shooting buddy, President Aquino. She was once caught on camera in a casino where government officials are banned, and has been blamed for the inordinate delay in the release of license plates for new vehicles.

The bureau must also not be content with the silence if it were truly serious about cleaning up its image before the public. Customs has always been seen as a hotbed of corruption. What is the commissioner, Alberto Lina, doing about this, not just with regard to Torres but to the allegations of sugar smuggling? What about the other products? Where is the cleanup of the people and the rumored powerful blocs within in—forces that forced its former head to resign?

Silence is as powerful as noise in pointing to wrongdoing. Let’s slam that boisterous party in Laguna, yes. But let’s not give some people the satisfaction of our silence on the issues they must be held accountable for.

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