MANILA, Philippines – Many social media users and some lawmakers have lambasted the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for supposedly nitpicking on Philippine Airlines (PAL) crew members who brought in 40 kilos of undeclared onions and fruits when the agency should be focusing on running after large-scale smugglers instead.
On January 10, the BOC confiscated from 10 PAL crew over 15 kilos of onions, over four kilos of lemons, and a kilo of strawberries and blueberries.
The incident drew outrage from netizens who questioned the alleged “double standard” of the BOC when it came to the implementation of the law against smuggling.
Some government officials, including senators Raffy Tulfo and JV Ejercito, found it unnecessary to charge the airline crew.
Tulfo said there was no need for the BOC to humiliate the PAL crew since the goods they brought in were to be considered pasalubong or a gift to their families. He added that the BOC must focus on catching big-time smugglers instead.
Ejercito, for his part, questioned the BOC’s seeming misplaced priorities when it came to smuggling.
Another social media user suggested that the incident may be used as a “smokescreen” that big-time smugglers would benefit from.
Netizen Robbie Meriales saw the situation as a result of the government’s failure to address the basic needs of Filipinos, which includes reining in the price hike of onions.
Netizen Elly called the country’s situation as the “golden onion era” under the Marcos administration.
User @coconut_block suggested that bringing home onions as pasalubong illustrated the “desperate times” Filipinos were in.
Others shared the view that the airline crew brought in goods that were not in “commercial quantity.”
Another netizen questioned the motive of the agency. “May balak ba silang mapuri ng amo nila?” (Are they brownnosing their boss?)” he asked.
Another netizen expressed support for the airline crew and for OFWs who “would rather bring home onions” especially in this economy.
A netizen joined others in calling out the government for its supposed inconsistencies in dealing with smuggling cases.
Vergel Zaragoza considered it “too technical” for the Bureau of Customs to require clearance from the Department of Agriculture before allowing the entry of goods for “personal use.”
“When do you consider it smuggling?” another netizen asked.
Others expressed frustration by using the phrase, “Sa Pilipinas lang (Only in the Philippines).”
In a GMA Balitanghali interview, Customs spokesman Arnold Dela Torre cited Presidential Decree 1433, also known as the Plant Quarantine Decree of 1978. This law states that the entry of regulated commodities, particularly agricultural products from abroad, is not allowed in order to “protect domestic agricultural products from pests, bacteria and viruses.”
According to Dela Torre, this is not the first time they encountered returning Filipinos bringing in agricultural products from abroad. He added that the PAL crew failed to declare the goods.
What are your thoughts on this? – Rappler.com