Exposing double standard: Senators furious at seizure of PAL crew’s onion ‘pasalubong’

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By: Daniza Fernandez – Reporter / @DFernandezINQ INQUIRER.net / January 16, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Monday said they are distraught that Philippine Airlines (PAL) crew members are now in hot water for bringing onions to the Philippines as “pasalubong” (souvenir).

Senators JV Ejercito and Raffy Tulfo raised concerns about the double standard in punishing the PAL crew members while letting the major smugglers go free.

“‘Yung PAL crew, nagdadala ‘yan ng pasalubong for personal consumption. Dati, mansanas, ubas, pabango, sapatos. Ngayon, sibuyas na ang kanilang pinapasalubong sa kanilang mga pamilya. So, this is already a cause of alert,” Ejercito said during the Senate committee on agriculture, food, and agrarian reform hearing.

(PAL crew members bring home souvenirs for personal consumption. Before, apples, grapes, perfumes, and shoes. Now, they bring home onions for their families. So, this is already a cause of the alert.)

The confiscated onions from the airline crew members, Ejercito said, have a value of $100 to $150.

“Ito papatulan natin pero ‘yung mga big-time na cartel, smuggler, protektor, nakakalusot?” he asked.

(This one, we will punish, but big-time cartels, smugglers, and protectors go free?)

Tulfo shared Ejercito’s view and said the matter is “unacceptable.”

“Uminit ang ulo ko. Bureau of Customs, pinaghuhuli ‘nyo itong mga airline crew, hinarang ‘nyo pampasalubong lang. Bakit ‘yung malalaking big-time smugglers na paulit-ulit na binabanggit… hindi ‘nyo pinaghuhuli at pinagkukulong?” Tulfo asked Customs officials present during the Senate hearing.

(I became hot-headed. Bureau of Customs, you flagged these airline crew. You intercepted something that is for their personal consumption only. How about big-time smugglers whose identities are being repeatedly mentioned? Why are you not arresting them?)

“Dapat priority ’nyo ‘yung mga big-time [smugglers]. Bakit hindi ‘nyo paghuhulihin? Siguro nasa opisina ‘nyo palagi. This is unacceptable,” he added.

(Big-time smugglers should be your priority. Why don’t you arrest them? Maybe they are always in your office. This is unacceptable.)

According to the Bureau of Customs authorities, they confiscated 11 kilos of onions from PAL crew members from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The crew members will be charged for violating the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and the Plant Quarantine Decree of 1978.

The said panel, chaired by Senator Cynthia Villar, is investigating the rising prices of onions in the country.

Over the weekend, the Department of Agriculture said that onion farm gate prices went down to P250 a kilo while suggested retail prices also dropped to P400 a kilo in some areas.