‘Pasalubong’ for Customs chief comes from tax-credit grease, Lapeña tells Senate probers

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PDEA director general Isidro Lapena speaks at the launch of Rehabinasyon, during his stint as PDEA chief. Recently installed at the Bureau of Customs, he saw the BOC posting P3 billion for two consecutive days in September, a record . (image from News5 video)

MANILA – Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said on Wednesday he has learned that the source of the ‘pasalubong’ or welcome gift for a newly designated BOC chairman is usually raised by negotiating with businesses claiming tax credits from the Bureau of Customs.

At the resumption of the Senate hearing on the alleged corruption at the BOC, Lapeña said the equivalent of 3 to 7 percent of a TCC’s face value is normally negotiated for in order to fund the ‘pasalubong.’

“I was told that these tax credit certificates, about three to seven percent, is taken from there for pasalubong for the new commissioner,” he said.

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson earlier said then BOC Commissioner Faeldon allegedly received P100 million worth of ‘pasalubong’ when he assumed office at the government agency.

Faeldon denied receiving the welcome gift, saying that he had never committed corruption throughout his service in government.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Lapeña said he had not yet received the so-called ‘pasalubong’ when he became Customs Commissioner. But he recalled that three weeks ago, he started to receive bundles of tax credit certificates in his office that needed his signature for processing.

“I signed it then released to those who processed it. And then every week thereafter, there were the same bundles of these folders for tax credit certificates,” he said.

“Last week, a concerned personnel came to my office and told me that it is the source, the tax credit certificates are the source of the pasalubong,” he added.

Lapeña explained that these certificates were tax refunds meant to be credited back to big companies whenever there are excess payments of duties or whenever there is a non-arrival or cancellation of imports.

He also found out that TCCs are allowed to pile up at the BOC and are only processed when a Commissioner has been newly appointed.

“So when I learned about it, I immediately recalled all those tax credit certificates,” he said.

Lapeña added that he planned to issue the said certificates in a transparent way by releasing it during a flag raising ceremony.

Baka may mga nagsasabi na nakakatanggap ako ng pasalubong din [Maybe someone might say I received pasalubong, too]. I was asked by the media. No, I have not receive any pasalubong. Ito pala ‘yon [So, this was it],” he said.

However, Customs collector Atty. Liza Sebastian, who was head secretariat of the tax credit committee, said it was impossible that TCCs were the source of pasalubong.

Nagulat po ako ‘yan po ang naging source ng pasalubong. Comm (Lapeña), sorry po hindi po talaga. Iba ho ‘yun,” she said.

But she admitted there were instances wherein the issuance of TCCs were “facilitated.”

Para dumulas ang [To grease the] bureaucracy?” Senator Richard Gordon asked Sebastian.

“Yes, to facilitate the issuance po,” she replied.

Lacson, however, surmised that the TCCs may not be the only source of ‘pasalubong.’

Purportedly ‘yung source ng pasalubong pwedeng nanggaling din sa [the source of the welcome gift may come from the] tax credit certificate but not all kasi [because] it’s a regular thing at the Bureau of Customs,” he said.

Kaya lang kung naiipon nga, pagpasok ng bagong Commissioner, kung sino man umiipit sa ibaba saka ibubuhos na ‘sir pirmahan niyo na ito meron ditong three percent,’ posible din ‘yun [However, if it gets piled up, when a new Commissioner comes in, whoever is caught in-between then gives it and say, ‘ sir, sign these because there is a three percent here,’ that is also possible],” he said.

Meanwhile, Gordon told Lapeña he might be just at the tip of iceberg regarding the sources of the alleged welcome gift.

Mas malaki pa siguro ang darating d’yan na hindi pa natin nakikita at malapit na natin makita [What comes next might more much bigger that we have not yet seen and will be seeing soon],” he said.