By Betheena Unite
An anti-smuggling task force is now being created by the Bureau of Customs (BOC), bringing the intelligence, enforcement, and prosecution units together for a stronger arm against rampant smuggling in the country, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña revealed Friday.
Speaking at the Clean Forum in Manila, Lapeña revealed that the creation of anti-smuggling task force is underway, pending the approval of the Department of Finance (DOF).
The Customs chief said they are expecting to launch it on the second half of the year.
“The creation of the anti-smuggling task force is DOF directive, kami ang magbubuo (BOC will form it),” Lapeña said.
Under the task force, the intelligence group (IG), enforcement group (EG), and the Bureau Action Team Against Smugglers (BATAS) will work together in gathering information, operations, and case buildup.
According to Lapeña, the three existing units will still perform its mandated task but they need to coordinate with each other.
The IG will be the intelligence arm of the task force. They will focus on gathering intelligence reports on attempts of smuggling through the country’s ports.
The EG, on the other hand, will help on the anti-smuggling operations, while BATAS will be the investigative and prosecution arm of the task force.
“Coordinated lahat sa anti-smuggling. They can still operate for example IG will focus on intelligence gathering and then whatever intelligence information they gather, they pass it on to the anti-smuggling task force. The anti-smuggling task force will be the one to execute,” Lapeña said.
He further said there will be no conflict in the operations because they have their own tasks to do for the task force.
An organizational structure was already sent to the DOF for approval, the commissioner said. The commander and personnel of the task force will be coming from the bureau, he added.
“Personnel are from the bureau but a coordination will be done extensively especially with the Coast Guard, PNP (Philippine National Police), and other law enforcement agencies who exercise general law enforcement functions,” Lapeña said.
“It is generally the same task force, with the same function. And maybe ang isa will be differentiated by the accomplishments but right now we cannot say any difference. Maybe the functions are the same but the implementation is different,” Lapeña added.
Regional task force will also be established, especially on the areas where “smuggling is reportedly rampant.”
“Initially, there will be one in Zamboanga area, where smuggling is reported to be rampant and in Cebu and in the Luzon area or Manila area. ‘Yung ibang hindi naman rampant, it will be covered by those areas on the smuggling task force,” Lapeña said.
All citizens were also urged to help the task force by reporting information to the bureau.
“All citizens, including senior citizens are welcome to help kasi kayo naman ang source ng information (because you are the source of information). The counter intel agent will come to you to verify the information,” Lapeña said.
“(The citizens help) not only in the anti-smuggling operations of the bureau but on all operations including fight against corruption, technical smuggling. Karamihan naman niyan civilian (Most of the informants are civilians). They text me, direct from the private citizens,” the commissioner added.