The Commonwealth Government

After the Commonwealth Government was established in the country, the Philippine Legislature enacted Commonwealth Act No. 613 forming the Bureau of Immigration as a separate office from the Bureau of Customs.

On May 1, 1947, the Bureau of Customs has as its head the Insular Collector of Customs. He was assisted by the Deputy Insular Collector of Customs. Both officials were concurrently Collector of Customs and the Deputy Collector of Customs of the Port of Manila. The Republic Pursuant to the Executive Order No. 94 of Republic Act No. 52, the President of the Philippines reorganized the different departments, bureaus, offices and agencies of the government of the Republic of the Philippines. Consequently, the Insular Collector of Customs was changed to Collector of Customs for the Port of Manila. The reorganization took effect on July 1, 1947.

In 1957, Congress enacted the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines known as Republic Act No. 1937, otherwise known as the “Tariff Law of the Republic of the Philippines”. This took effect on July 1, 1957. The passage of this act by the defunct Congress of the Philippines subject to the provisions of the Laurel-Langley Agreement, became the first official expression of an autonomous Philippine Tariff Policy.

Before the passage of Republic Act 1937, all importations from the United States enjoyed full exemptions pursuant to the Tariff Act No. 1902 which was adopted by Republic Act No. 3 as the Tariff Laws of the Philippines.

The Republic

Pursuant to the Executive Order No. 94 of Republic Act No. 52, the President of the Philippines reorganized the different departments, bureaus, offices and agencies of the government of the Republic of the Philippines. Consequently, the Insular Collector of Customs was changed to Collector of Customs for the Port of Manila. The reorganization took effect on July 1, 1947.

In 1957, Congress enacted the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines known as Republic Act No. 1937, otherwise known as the “Tariff Law of the Republic of the Philippines”. This took effect on July 1, 1957. The passage of this act by the defunct Congress of the Philippines subject to the provisions of the Laurel-Langley Agreement, became the first official expression of an autonomous Philippine Tariff Policy.

Before the passage of Republic Act 1937, all importations from the United States enjoyed full exemptions pursuant to the Tariff Act No. 1902 which was adopted by Republic Act No. 3 as the Tariff Laws of the Philippines.

The Reorganization of the Bureau of Customs

On February 4, 1965, the Bureau of Customs was reorganized pursuant to Customs Administrative Order No. 4-65 by authority if Sec. 550 & 551 of the Revised Administrative Code of Republic Act 4164. During the reorganization, offices under the direct supervision and control of the Commissioner were elevated to Department Level with ranks higher than Division Level. These Departments were the following: Public Relations, Personnel, Legal, Administrative Service, Budget and Finance, and the Management Improvement. Likewise, three (3) ranking Customs positions were created, namely: Assistant Commissioner for Revenue, Assistant Commissioner for Security, and Director for Operations.

Later, Customs Administrative Order No. 4065 was amended abolishing the position of Assistant Commissioner for Security and creating the position of Director for Administration.

In 1972, Congress passed the law revising the Tariff & Customs Code of the Philippines. However, before it can be implemented, the President of the Republic of the Philippines issued Proclamation No. 1081 on September 21, 1972 declaring Martial Law in the country.

On October 27, 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 34 amending the Tariff & Customs Code of the Philippines. The new Code took effect on November 26, 1972 except for Section 104 thereof which became effective only on January 1, 1973.

Another reorganization of the Bureau of Customs took effect on September 24, 1972, pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1 creating six (6) Customs Services under the Office of the Commissioner and creating jurisdictional limits of twelve (12) collection districts with the Principal Ports and Sub-ports of entry under the supervision and control of the Collector of the Principal Port of Entry.

As a result of this reorganization, the designation of heads of different services was called Customs Service Chiefs, and heads of offices with rank of division were designated Customs Operations Chiefs and the Head of the National Customs Police as Director. It was in this reorganizational set-up that the Directors for Administration and Operations, and the Assistant Commissioner for Revenue were abolished.

In 1975, the Bureau undertook another reorganization under Presidential Decree No. 689 and the result is what you see now in the Organization Chart, except for some slight changes and modifications.

On June 11, 1978, the Tariff & Customs Code was further amended, modified and supplemented by new positions to make it a responsive code in keeping with the developmental programs of the New Society. The new Code was embodied in Presidential Decree No. 1464.

With the accession of the Philippines to the Customs Co-Operation Council (CCC), the Tariff & Customs Code has to be revised anew in order to align our tariff system with the CCC Nomenclature, and the result is the presently enforced Tariff & Customs Code of 1982, revised by virtue of Executive Order No. 688. This new Code also assimilated various amendments to the Customs Code under P.D. 1628 & 1980 as well as reprints of the tariff concessions under the General Agreement on Tariff Multilateral Agreement Negotiations as provided in Executive Order No. 578, series of 1980, and the tariff concessions granted to ASEAN member countries as embodied in various Executive Orders from 1978 to 1981.

The last major reorganization of the Bureau took place in 1986 after the EDSA Revolution with the issuance of Executive Order No. 127 which expanded the organization umbrella of the Central Office by providing offices that will monitor and coordinate assessment and operations of the Bureau and provided for a staff of about 5,500 customs personnel.

The implementation of the computerization program also necessitated the creation of a new Group to ensure its continuous development and progress. The creation of the Management Information System and Technology Group (MISTG) under a new Deputy Commissioner with 92 positions was authorized under Executive Order No. 463 dated January 9, 1998.

A Journey in Time

The Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) Over the Years

Customs management is always bound to fail without police authority. That makes the Customs Police or Enforcement and Security Services (ESS) just as important as the Customs Examiners and Appraiser in Customs administration and in curbing smuggling. Levying the right tariff is a major administrative concern but plugging the smuggling loopholes is an even bigger challenge. But when and how did smuggling really start? The roots of smuggling go as far back as the 12th century following the creation of the National Customs Collection System in England by Edward I in 1275. Medieval smuggling, though, was focused on highly taxable goods at that time like wool and hides. However, there were also merchants who resorted to smuggling to circumvent certain prohibitions. In Britain, it was common to hear tales of a Cornishman named Tom, dressed in long boots and striped jersey, and known to be the first liquor smuggler. On moonlit nights, he would roll kegs of liquor ashore and hide them in a cave or at his house, to hawk them later in the village. Known to his neighbors as Tom the Smuggler, they would take turns in distracting the revenue man at his front door as he rolled barrels of brandy out the back. Of course, while smuggling may have been taken sportingly at that time, it is today a scourge of growing economies and the handmaiden of corruption.

Customs Service and Smuggling in the Philippines

In the Philippines, a rudimentary customs administration was already in place even before the first recorded Mid-Eastern and European expeditions arrived here. The country already had a flourishing trade with its Asian neighbors at that time. But since money was not yet the medium of exchange then, people resorted to barter and direct trade of commodities. Ruled by barangay leaders who were called “Datu” and “Rajah”, the Asian, Arab, Chinese and other European traders who bartered their wares with the locals paid tributes to them to get their wares ashore and sell or barter with the locals. This was the country’s earliest form of tariff in the 1500’s. Some merchants who found the tribute excessive resorted to every ruse and subterfuge to avoid paying from unloading their wares in the cover of darkness to concealment and deception, they tried everything to barter their wares without having to pay the usual tribute. Thus, started to country’s earliest form of smuggling and thus were born the forerunners of today’s smugglers.

Organizing Customs Service

At the end of the Spanish rule and with the Americans replacing them, the Spanish Tariff Code of 1891 was initially left untouched. Meanwhile, the volume of trade grew, but so did the problems of smuggling. In 1901, the Philippine Commission enacted the Tariff Revision Law. In 1902, after a series of Customs Service Acts (CSA), Act No. 355, the Philippine Customs Service Act, was passed. This was followed by Commonwealth Act No. 357 reorganizing the Philippine Customs Service and designating the Insular Collector of Customs as Collector of Customs for the Port of Manila. Commonwealth Act No. 625 abolished the Captain of the Port for the Port of Manila. And finally, Republic Act No. 430 transformed the Philippine Customs and Immigration under the supervision and control of the Department of Finance.

Starting the Customs Police

With smuggling beginning to hurt the government’s revenue collection efforts, and with the fact that customs administration will not succeed without a strong Customs laws enforcement arm, the Customs police was established.

On February 6, 1902 the Harbor Police was established, making it the first BOC group specifically tasked with the enforcement of customs laws. It was also at this time that the Philippines Customs Service was created.

The Harbor Police would be the BOC’s law enforcement group for 45 years, or until July 1, 1947, when the Harbor Police was re-organized into the Customs Patrol Service under Executive Oder No. 94.

On August 15, 1957, 10 years after its first re-organization, the Customs Patrol Service would undergo another re-organization with Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No.225 delimiting its power and duties, adding into its mandate administrative and operational responsibilities. The Order also transferred the BOC’s Launch Service, which was in charge of patrolling the seas, from the Collector of the Port of Manila to the Customs Patrol Service.

On February 28, 1958 the Customs Patrol Service went through another re-organization with the issuance of CAO No.230 by then Customs Commissioner Eleuterio Caparas. The responsibility for patrolling the seas and safeguarding the BOC’s properties was placed under the direct supervision and control of the Director for Security who was, in turn the Office of the Commissioner. However, those responsibilities could also be under the operational control of the Collector of the Port, upon approval of the commissioner.

Two years after the 1958 re-organization, the various law enforcement agencies would be integrated under the Law Enforcement Command (LEC) by virtue of CAO No. 248 issued on September 26, 1960. The various Customs groups namely, the Central Investigation Office, Customs Security Division, Customs Patrol Service and Port Patrol Division including their inherent functions, personnel and equipment were transferred to the LEC for the purpose of integration under a unified command. The respective units were allowed to prepare their own standard operating procedures, rules and regulation. The LEC, while responsible to the Collector of Customs operationally, was subject to the overall authority of the Customs Commissioner.

On October 26, 1961, CAO No. 264, in relation to another CAO re-organizing the Office of the Commissioner, designated a Deputy Collector for Customs for Security as the Commanding Office of the LEC which was composed of the Water Patrol Division, Uniformed Division and the Intelligence Division. January 4, 1964 saw another movement in the LEC when CAO No. 16-63 abolished the LEC’s Intelligence Division, replacing it with the Secret Service Division.

This division was formed to undertake surveillance work, conduct searches, seizures and arrest on piers and wharves and other Customs premises.

On February 4, 1965, CAO No. 9-65 was issued creating the position of Assistant Commissioner for Security. This was, however, abolished and changed to Director for Administration by virtue of CAO 1-671 which was issued on February 14, 1967.

During this time the Customs Police was known as the Customs Police Division.

To achieve enhanced coordination and effectiveness on the prevention of smuggling and maintenance of security, peace and order in the Greater Manila Area, the Customs Police Division units at the North Harbor, South Harbor and the Manila International Airport were integrated and placed under the direct supervision and control of the Customs Commissioner and called the Customs Metropolitan Police Service by virtue of CAO No. 13-70 issued August 14, 1970.

With the success of the Customs Metropolitan Police Service, CAO no.2-76 was subsequently issued on January 7, 1976 integrating all Customs Police Units of the BOC’s various ports into one command called the National Customs Police. Under the command of a Director who reported directly to the Customs Commissioner the National Customs Police gave birth to a distinct and organized police command for the bureau.

In March 1987, the National Customs Police was re-named into the Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) under Executive Order No. 127 which also directed the general reorganization of the bureau to make it more responsive to emerging customs need and trends at that time.

The ESS would be composed of three divisions, namely: the Customs Police Division, Water Patrol Division and Radio Communications Division.

The officers and men of the ESS were given additional training to prepare them for the challenge of maintaining peace and security at the BOC, including the fight against smuggling.

Today, the ESS continues to secure our border protecting the country from anti-social goods while continuing to live with its legacy to be the nemesis of smugglers.