‘Dapat palitan, bayaran’: Customs told after smashing Pinay worker’s airplane toy

April 5, 2023 - 4:33 PM
Bureau of Customs building (file photo/Philstar.com)

A customs personnel destroyed an airplane toy that was supposed to be a gift of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) to her family.

The OFW named Rachelle Ramos posted about this unfortunate incident on her Facebook account. It was later picked up and reported by GMA News on April 4.

According to her tale, Ramos was on her way to her connecting flight to Laoag City at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) when an agent from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) flagged her.

This agent got suspicious of the big box that was in Ramos’ belongings.

Suspecting it has contraband inside, the agent put her baggage through the X-ray machine twice. A sniffer dog also went through her bags.

These processes, however, were not enough to convince them to clear the Pinay worker.

To prevent further delay, Ramos gave in and allowed the BOC to open the box.

In the video she uploaded with her post, the female Customs agent could be seen smashing the die-cast toy to see if there was anything inside it.

No contraband was found inside the now-destroyed gift.

The report said that BOC Assistant Commissioner and Spokesperson Vincent Maronilla apologized to Ramos for the false alarm that resulted in the destruction of the airplane.

Response of Customs

Following the slew of criticisms from the public, the BOC apologized for the “inconvenience” its procedure has brought to the passenger involved.

The bureau issued this statement on Facebook on April 5.

“We sincerely apologize to the concerned passenger for any inconvenience it may have caused and recognizes the unintentional errors committed at the expense of our passengers,” BOC said.

The government agency also further stated: “Nevertheless, we understand the importance of balancing security and passenger comfort. Thus, we will review our procedures to align with this goal and to avoid similar occurrences in the future.”

Dismay, anger vs BOC

Ramos’ experience quickly made buzz across social media platforms.

Several Filipinos slammed the BOC for destroying the airplane model. They made emphasis on Ramos’ hard work to earn money and purchase this toy overseas.

“Grabe hindi nila alam dugot pawis ang pinuhunan ng OFW diyan para makapag-uwi lang ng ganyan tapos sisirain lang,” a Facebook user said.

Other Facebook users suggested that the bureau should replace the airplane model or compensate Ramos for the damage incurred.

“Dapat palitan o bayaran yan. Pinaghirapan nung tao pinangbili diyan. Pasalubong pa. Pabida naman nung sumira,” a Filipino commented of Facebook.

Several Redditors, meanwhile, expressed dismay and ire over the value of the model plane.

“Saw the news, hindi siya basta basta na laruan, die-cast siya or metallic, sure ako mahal yan, hindi rin ata nabuksan totally kasi minartilyo lang,” one Redditor said.

In the report, Ramos also called on the government to fix and upgrade its X-ray machine at the airport to prevent other OFWs like her to go through the same experience.

“Mas maganda if mag upgrade sila ng X-ray machine. Yung talagang malinaw yung image na sinasabi nila, ‘There’s something image inside the plane’. Confident sila sa sarili nila na kung ano nasa loob ng plane,” she was quoted in the report as saying.

Are Custom agents authorized to perform searches?

Under the Republic Act 1937 or the Tariff and Customs Law of the Philippines, authorized personnel are given the right to search persons, items, animals and vehicles if there’s “reasonable cause to suspect the presence therein of dutiable or prohibited article or articles.”

This provision is stated under Section 2211 of the law, which states the following:

“It shall also be lawful for a person exercising authority as aforesaid to open and examine any box, trunk, envelope or other container, wherever found where he has reasonable cause to suspect the presence therein of dutiable or prohibited article or articles introduced into the Philippines contrary to law.”