ERAP BLINKS; ORDERS AUCTION OF ‘HOT’ CARS
Manila, Nov. 10, 1999 - President Joseph Estrada ordered the auction of all "hot cars" seized by the government, including those assigned to his Cabinet members.
In a memorandum, the President directed Secretary Edgar Espiritu of the Department of Finance (DOF) "to carry out the most expeditious conduct of seizure and forfeiture proceedings against all such illegally imported vehicles, and immediately proceed with the auction of these forfeited vehicles as authorized under Customs rules and regulations, and to the best advantage of the government."
Mr. Estrada said proceeds from the disposition of the vehicles shall fund benefits intended for government employees.
"The proceeds from the disposition of these vehicles, whether from auction or from the payment of taxes and duties, shall then be made available as additional funding for the payment of benefits of government employees," he said.
He said the order covers the seized luxury vehicles issued to Cabinet members who, according to Presidential Spokesman Jerry Barican, have unanimously agreed to give up their cars.
In an interview, Barican said a government official who has been issued a car, has two options to turn it over for auction or to acquire it.
"If the car is assigned to a government official, the office concerned has the option of either turning it for auction or the office may, under existing rules, pay for the taxes and duties of the vehicle, to acquire it. However, the Cabinet and other officials concerned I’d talked with so far have indicated their intention to surrender their cars for auction," Barican said.
He said the cars will be returned to Malacañang and kept there while Espiritu arranges for their auction.
Barican said the auction, to be conducted by the DOF and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) shall be very transparent, with invitations to the public to participate.
"So, they won’t be auctioned as in the past, wherein only a small clique of insiders effectively bought the vehicles at very low prices because it was pre-arranged," he said.
In ordering the auction, Barican said, the President had always made it clear that an auction would take place, and it was only the matter of timing that had not been determined.
"The President thought the time has come, and the reason … is (that) the smuggling cars into the Philippines has been completely stopped. Whereas before you had a flood of imported cars smuggled through various places, what the President has done has completely stopped car smuggling," he said.
Barican added the government hopes to raise as much as P100 million from the auction of the smuggled vehicles which, he said, would be sold in "lots of five."
He likewise noted that while the cars to be auctioned are slightly used, they are "very well maintained," as compared to unused vehicles left to rot at the BOC warehouse in Manila.
Earlier, the President had ordered the issuance of the seized vehicles to his Cabinet members and other government officials to teach smugglers a lesson. The President said smugglers have had their way for too long, rigging bidding procedures with corrupt Customs officials to circumvent the law.
In many cases, the President said, smuggling rings strip a vehicle of its accessories and "win" auctions for them, eventually returning the accessories after reacquiring them.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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