TWELVE collectors of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) resigned on Saturday, a day after Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon ordered all district and sub-port collectors to submit their letters of resignation not later than Monday.
The district collectors who resigned were Rogel Gatchalian of the Port of Manila, Edward dela Cuesta of Cebu, Oswaldo Geli of Surigao, Eduard James Dybuco of Davao, Adelina Molina of Subic, Ronnie Silvestre of Clark, Pampanga and Darwisha Shuck of Zamboanga.
Gatchalian said he resigned to give the commissioner a free hand and to disprove allegations that Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is meddling with the affairs in the BOC in his favor.
“And to show na hindi ako kapit tuko sa pwesto [that I am not clinging to my post],” he added.
The five sub-ports collectors who also tendered their resignation were Noah Dimaporo of Harbor Center, Jemima Sy-Flores of North Harbor, Josefa Villasenor of Nasipit, Pendatum Alim of Dadiangas, and Pedro Quiñones of Parang.
Biazon said he wants all positions declared vacant so that he would be able to implement a massive reshuffle at the BOC’s 15 collection districts.
He admitted that the resignation of all Customs collectors does not solve the long-entrenched problems of the bureau but that it would give him a fresh start to introduce reforms. He also said that he was not blaming the collectors for the BOC’s failure to meet its revenue targets and its unsuccessful campaign to stop smuggling and corruption.
Customs Deputy Commissioners Danilo Lim and Juan Lorenzo Tanada resigned on Wednesday, obviously stung by the public scolding they got during President Benigno Aquino’s State of the Nation Address.
Biazon texted his resignation to Aquino immediately after the SONA, but the President did not accept it.
Lim had bewailed that high-ranking public officials are meddling in the operations of the BOC.
A source told The Manila Times that Speaker Sonny Belmonte and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. were among the “padrinos” who have been protecting some Customs officials. Malacanang was quick to clear Ochoa.
Meawhile, a lawmaker also on Saturday sought the filing of charges against erring Customs officials and businessmen involved in smuggling and bribery.
House Assistant Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of the Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list made the call in light of Customs Deputy Commissioner Danilo Lim’s declaration that corruption and nepotism are deeply-rooted in the bureau.
“There should be an action that would set an example. Criminal cases should be filed against Customs officials and businessmen involved in smuggling,” Tugna said.
He likewise proposed that the Customs bureau be exempted from the Salary Standardization Law since Customs assessors are vulnerable to pay-offs.
“They should have a high salary so that they are less likely to succumb to graft and corruption,” the lawmaker added.
Former Customs Commissioner and Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro admitted that importers who experience delays in the clearance of their cargo and other shipment led Customs officials ‘to go the easy way out’.
“These businessmen are willing to let go of certain amounts which are difficult to turn down. If the cargo is worth P100 million, you can just imagine how much the importer is willing to spend just to get that out,” he said.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd lambasted Customs officials in his State of the Nation Address for their failure to meet tax collection targets and stop shipment of arms and illegal drugs.