Only the most innocent and naïve person will ask why anyone would want to work at the Bureau of Customs.
Its head office may be located in the worst part of the nation’s capital. The area is dirty and becomes unsafe almost as soon as the sun sets. And the typical pay of a rank-and-file employee at the bureau is downright pathetic.
Still, the waiting list of applicants who would kill to land a job—any kind of job—at BOC is longer than the number of applicants for all the jobs offered by all the call centers and all the recruitment agencies in the country.
The reason is simple. The perks are spectacular, even if they are illegal. Money pours in like the hard rains brought about by the most powerful tropical storm.
Even the lowliest employees get a piece of the action. You just can’t imagine how much the supervisors and managers get. And yes, the top executives are certainly the ones who enjoy privileges that allow them to live like kings and queens.
The BOC has been in the news lately because President Benigno Aquino 3rd pointed out that its employees are in a contest to outdo each other in terms of incompetence in his State of the Nation Address.
Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon then submitted the weakest of all resignations, telling the President via text message that he was willing to resign if Mr. Aquino wanted him to do so.
Talk about lame!
The young Biazon should take some lessons in leadership from his father, former Senator Pong Biazon. During his time in the Armed Forces of the Philippine, the elder Biazon was known as a man of his word. If he said he would take a certain course of action, you could be sure he would do so come what may.
Pong Biazon is one of a kind. Although he was the goat of his graduating class in the Philippine Military Academy—meaning he placed dead last in his batch—he still made it to the top, eventually retiring as AFP chief of staff.
Too bad his son did not grow up to have the same qualities as good old Pong.
Even when he instructed his executives at the BOC to submit their courtesy resignations, not everyone did so.
This says a lot of the leadership skills of Ruffy Biazon. No wonder then that the bureau is not only missing its collection targets, but that smuggling has again become rampant under his watch.
To make matters worse, resigned deputy commissioner and former Gen. Danny Lim has been exposing the weaknesses of the BOC leadership, and that includes the younger Biazon.
A wealth of padrinos
According to Lim, he feels helpless because there have been too many padrinos who protect corrupt officials and employees and who seek all sorts of favors from the BOC leadership.
The only sad thing about Lim’s statements is that he refuses to name the padrinos and their protégés and cite examples of what these favors are, something that the public should know about.
The retired general hasn’t really said anything new. It has long been known that the BOC is not only a hotbed of wholesale graft and corruption, but is also a place where favors are requested and granted in exchange for God-knows-what.
Many decades ago, the “requests” were mostly to expedite the release of all kinds of cargo, mostly consumer goods like cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, even motor vehicles.
Today is another matter.
What is absolutely frightening is that dangerous drugs can be part of the cargo that some padrinos want released to their friends and associates, and they have no qualms about calling up the highest ranking BOC officials to make this happen.
We daresay that perhaps President Aquino appointed the wrong Biazon to head the BOC.
If not for his fairly advanced age, Pong would be ideal for the job. Since Pong is too old and Ruffy is too ineffective, what the Chief Executive should do is to recruit someone who has a reputation for toughness, competence and absolute honesty to handle Customs.
The business community would be in the best position to recommend candidates.
Hopefully, somebody with a strong presence as head of BOC, the much talked about clean up there will become a reality.
Only when the right man is appointed BOC chief can we say that Customs will be cleaned up.
For now, the bureau is a mess and collections will not rise to desirable levels under the present leadership.