Executives of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will have their lifestyles checked as part of the over-all in-house reforms that the Department of Finance (DOF) is implementing, including to its attached agencies and bureaus.
The lifestyle check was ordered by Secretary Carlos Dominguez III who said a forensic analysis of data, including the possible opening of bank accounts linked to fraudulent or corrupt activities will also be included in the move.
In a statement to the media on Monday, DOF said the order is also part of the Duterte administration’s ongoing efforts to rid the agency of graft and corruption.
“Relaxing the country’s bank secrecy law as a way to flush out corrupt government officials as well as tax dodgers in the private sector is one of the proposals that the agency plans to submit to the Congress,” the statement said.
However, prior to the full implementation of the lifestyle check, the BOC had already ordered the relief of Deputy Commissioner Arnel Alcaraz as officer-in-charge of its Enforcement Group.
The order came after President Duterte said he wants a certain Customs official suspended and removed from office for alleged corruption.
Alcaraz was replaced as OIC Isabelo Tibayan III, the director of the Enforcement and Security Service.
In the same statement, Dominguez, in reaction to the relief of Alcaraz said: “I think it has to start at the top, good example at the top that people do not accept bribes or are clean. I think the leadership factor is important, [that’s] number one.”
He also emphasized that the government must also be smart about catching corrupt people, saying that corrupt officials are not easily caught playing cops and robbers but by checking their lifestyle, bank accounts and how many cars they own.
“If the source of the river is dirty, then all of them would be dirty,” he pointed out.
On top of conducting a lifestyle check on Customs officials, Dominguez said DOF and its attached agencies would be doing a forensic analysis of data to expose corrupt officials, tax evaders and others involved in financial crimes.
“That’s why part of our legislative agenda is to make sure that the privacy laws on bank accounts will allow the government to look into the bank accounts of people that have very strong evidence of corruption or tax evasion,” he stressed.
The secretary added that the agency is also on the process of implementing reforms not only in the BOC but also at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to make the tax system simpler, fairer and more efficient.
He also urged the Congress to pass new legislation that will relax bank secrecy laws for tax fraud cases and include tax evasion as a predicate crime for money laundering.