Wisdom > Spoiler

Weep for your country, not for the cars

Will the car-wrecking spectacle stop smuggling?

Nice props for a made-for-PR show. PHOTO BY HOWARD FELIPE

The photos are shocking to look at. Especially if you like cars. They show a Komatsu bulldozer crushing rows of helpless automobiles, including a classic Corvette Stingray. The metal-flattening spectacle took place yesterday at the Port of Manila, an ironic way to mark the 116th anniversary of the absolutely corrupt Bureau of Customs.

The car-wrecking event was supposedly President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning to all motor vehicle smugglers in the country. By publicizing the destruction of what was purported to be a P61-million collection of luxury sedans, vans and sports cars, the authorities apparently believe that criminal importers (yes, they’re criminals) would quake in their boots.

Who are we kidding?

Car-smuggling has been going on in the Philippines forever. And it’s not just gray-market importers that collude with BOC insiders—even otherwise legitimate automotive distributors do it. Precisely why we occasionally hear of companies getting slapped hefty fines for either undervaluing their vehicles or flat-out avoiding the payment of customs duties.

And now we’re all debating on social media: Should smuggled cars be wrecked or should they be auctioned off so that the funds may be used for something beneficial?

We’re asking the wrong question. The right question is: What happens to the smugglers and the BOC conspirators? And how come only 20 units (30 if you include those in Cebu and Davao) were destroyed? Vehicles both brand-new and secondhand are shipped illegally to our shores on a regular basis. Surely, BOC officials know this.

Unless big-time smugglers and rotten BOC employees get hauled in jail—the real ones, even the corporate types, not the fall guys—the unlawful importation of cars (among other things) will continue.

Entertainment courtesy of the Bureau of Customs. PHOTOS BY HOWARD FELIPE

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.