Customs employees threaten to strike over lifestyle checks

By William B. Depasupil, The Manila Times, Tuesday 26 August 2003

The 5,000-strong militant Bureau of Customs Employees Association said it wanted the lifestyle check totally scrapped.

[The lifestyle check] is a prelude to the lateral privatization of the Customs just like what they are doing to the [Bureau of Internal Revenue], Romy Pagulayan, the union's president, told The Manila Times. It is part of a demolition job by foreign agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to discredit the customs bureau and picture its officials and personnel as corrupt.

The group's position clashes with that of Customs Commis-sioner Antonio Bernardo who has submitted his courtesy resignation to the President, along with four deputy commissioners.

We admit that there is corruption in the bureau, but not all officials and personnel are corrupt, Pagulayan added.

Like their superiors, the union is pushing for due process, no trial by publicity and a clear guideline in conducting the lifestyle checks.

However, Pagulayan stressed that unlike their superiors, they wanted the lifestyle check stopped and won't settle for anything less.

What agencies are really involved in these massive investigation? Is it the Ombuds-man, the Department of Finance, the Presidential Antigraft Com-mission or the newly created Transparency Group, which include the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the [National Police]? he asked.

He added: Where should the investigation be conducted? Who is in charge and by what authority?

In a statement, the union also questioned the President's creation of the Transparency Group through Administrative Order 62.

It seems that its creation has no proper information there being no publication, no imple-menting rules and regulations, guidelines, and what are the functions, authority and limi-tations of its composition, the statement said.