As news of the PhilHealth fraud continues to dominate the headlines during the pandemic, another government agency finds itself in the spotlight: the Bureau of Customs.
First, I would like to congratulate the hardworking men and women of BOC for seizing the McLaren 620R over its importer’s misdeclaration. The car is impressive indeed: a hardcore, track-focused and no-compromise supercar whose full performance potential can only be unleashed safely and legally on the racetrack. Our Customs inspectors have seemingly leveled up immensely, as they can now distinguish a McLaren 620R from a Porsche Cayman. Both are four-wheeled vehicles, both are mid-engined, and both are engaging to drive. But to call the 620R a Cayman is like calling a 911 a Beetle, despite both German cars being the brainchild of the same family (and both being rear-engined and air-cooled boxers).
The next step, however, is where it gets very tricky for the bureau, and indeed for the entire Duterte administration.
The McLaren 620R has a declared value of P33 million. I checked online and that sounds about right, with a suggested retail price of about $300,000 before options. Added options and a dealer premium can push the price further up, but let’s settle at 33 very large ones. As per our customs laws, total taxes should amount to P16,771,689. Thus, if the Bureau of Customs does auction off the controversial automobile, the total consideration would be P50 million.
That seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the P15 billion that PhilHealth executives have allegedly pocketed. But P50 million can still do any of the following:
■ Give 10,000 families a social-amelioration aid of P5,000 each;
■ Allow 7,142 individuals to undergo swab testing at P7,000 per test kit;
■ Buy 41,666 PPE sets for medical frontliners at P1,200 each; or
■ Purchase 3,125,000 surgical face masks at P16 each.
The amount can also send home most (if not all) locally stranded folks back to their respective provinces, or provide free shuttle service to healthcare workers.
In short, the money to be potentially collected from the possible auction of the McLaren 620R could make a real difference. Furthermore, if BOC auctions off all confiscated goods—not just cars—the funds generated will go an even longer way toward helping government in its fight against COVID-19.
Filipinos deserve the funds in these trying times. The money would be crucial to restoring everyone’s faith and confidence in government leaders, whose efforts in responding to the pandemic have been less than impressive
And so, my humble and ardent plea is this: Dear Bureau of Customs and the powers-that-be at this government agency, please make the fair, righteous and prudent decision. Auction the 620R (and all other seized vehicles as well as other smuggled commercial goods). Don’t be swayed and tempted by easy money through under-the-table deals. Filipinos deserve the funds in these trying times. The money would be crucial to restoring everyone’s faith and confidence in government leaders, whose efforts in responding to the pandemic have been less than impressive.
We implore President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and our lawmakers to help expedite the process of publicly auctioning all seized goods at Customs, starting with the McLaren 620R. Let’s live-stream the proceedings for the sake of transparency. The Filipino people desperately need this to happen. Because right now, we are short on everything: resources, patience and hope.
And one day, I’d very much love to see that McLaren 620R on the road, its taxes and duties legally paid for and with license plates proudly displayed by the new and rightful owner.