President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday appointed a finance expert as officer in charge of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Finance Undersecretary John “Sunny” Sevilla will temporarily head the bureau while the President scouts for a permanent replacement of Commissioner Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon who has until Friday to leave his post.
Sevilla is the Finance Undersecretary for Corporate Affairs Group and Privatization. He also served in that capacity from 2006 to 2007 under former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga.
Before his stint at Finance, Sevilla was executive director at the investment bank Goldman Sachs. He also was an associate director and sovereign rater for credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s.
He served as chief operating officer of Synergeia foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of public education in the Philippines.
He a degree in Economics and Government from Cornell University and holds a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from Princeton University.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said Sevilla’s “financial expertise and track record of public service rendered him more than capable of continuing the President’s reform agenda for Customs.”
“While it is a monumental challenge to fill the shoes left behind by Ruffy Biazon at Customs, we are in full support of the President’s decision to tap Undersecretary Sevilla for the job,” Purisima said.
“Leadership of the Bureau of Customs requires someone who is results-oriented and an expert on economics, international relations, and project implementation. These traits describe Sunny Sevilla perfectly.”
Calls the shots
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Wednesday made the chain of command at Customs clear, saying Purisima is the one calling the shots at the bureau.
“The President has stated when he accepted the resignation of Commissioner Biazon that he wants to give the Finance secretary some leverage in the transition period. As I understand it, his inputs and recommendations would be sought in relation to the appointment of the new Customs commissioner,” Coloma said.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd would choose the “most qualified” from among the Purisima will recommended, he said.
Purisima’s word counts a lot in choosing Biazon’s successor, Coloma said.
Among factors that would enhance performance would be that aspect of having good relations within the authority structure of the agency concerned,” he added.
Purisima and Biazon were said to be not on good terms and that the former lawmaker reports directly to the President. Customs insiders said Purisima heads a “clique” that maneuvered to ease out Biazon. The group reportedly includes the Finance chief’s “business associates,” former Customs chiefs Angelito Alvarez and Bert Lina.
Several names have been floated as Biazon’s replacement but only two— Jesse Dellosa and Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group Agaton Teodoro Uvero—are said to be the leading choices.
Sources said Biazon had no hand in appointing the new Customs officials last September.
Besides Dellosa, Uvero and other deputy commissioners in the bureau, the names of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares and Heidi Mendoza of the Commission on Audit were mentioned as Biazon’s possible replacement.
“The President will make a decision based on his own assessment on what is right and what should be done. I believe the President will appoint the most qualified person,” Coloma said.
While Dellosa, who was once the Armed Forces chief, enjoys the trust and confidence of Aquino, Uvero is closest to Purisima and Henares.
Uvero, it was learned, is an expert in international trade, indirect tax (customs), logistics and supply chain operations. Since 2002, he has worked on various Customs technical assistance programs funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), among others.
Coloma said there is an “urgency” in filling the Customs post because the bureau is “responsible for a large chunk of the national revenue generation effort next to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.”
“Following that principle, the person that will head this bureau would have to be equal to the task of producing the second biggest revenue source for the national government and its expenditures,” he said.
Biazon met with Purisima on Wednesday to discuss the turnover at the bureau.
He said he has no idea on who will replace him, because the President has the discretion to choose the next Customs chief.
But Biazon believes it would be “prudent and wise” to include insiders in the short list of candidates to his post.
He said Dellosa and Uvero are both qualified, but so are the other deputy commissioners.
Dellosa, who was with Biazon inspecting seized shipments, said that he has no idea about reports naming him as one of the candidates for Biazon’s post.