Good riddance! This was the first thought that came to our mind, because why would Customs inspectors retire before their time just because they are being reassigned to another post?
Commissioner Ruffy Biazon told the media the other day that some—if not all—of the 27 revenue collectors being reassigned to the newly created Customs Policy Research Officer (CPRO) are considering to take the optional retirement provision.
In the first place, why did they file a petition asking the court to stop their superior officer from proceeding with the personnel action?
The Manila Trial Court did issue a temporary restraining order, but, mercifully, it refused to make the order permanent, making the transfer imminent. Thus, the threat of the collectors—we’ll take it as a promise—to retire.
In the petition for declaratory relief, the collectors claim the transfer “will cause them irreparable damage.”
How’s that? There is no diminution in rank or salary. They are supposed to help formulate policy at CPRO, whatever that acronym really stands for, but they saw the writing on the wall. The long and short of it is that they are being exiled to keep them away from the action.
It is no secret that corrupt Customs collectors—and it is difficult to come up with one who is not these days—make millions of pesos a week.
Now we know what they mean by irreparable damage.
There must be something in the position that makes a collector loath to give it up.
In May and June 2011, nearly 2,000 container vans mysteriously disappeared. They were on their way to the Port of Batangas, but for some reason they never reached their destination.
Then Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez ordered an investigation. But it was a sham. Nothing came out of it.
How hard is it to unravel the mystery? There are so many vans that vanished into thin air, for heaven’s sake! All Alvarez had to do was talk to the truck owners, the dispatchers, the drivers and the helpers.
A barangay tanod can get to the bottom of it in no time at all, but until now neither Alvarez nor the collectors know—or pretend they don’t know—what happened in those two months when an average of 32 vans disappeared every day.
But enough already! President Aquino sacked Alvares and named Biazon as replacement. We’re sure he did so because he was convinced he had a hand in this crime, but why didn’t he order a case filed against him?
Mr. Aquino must have made some compromises along the way, possibly thinking termination of services is punishment enough.
The court allowed the TRO to lapse, thus enabling Biazon to proceed with the implementation of the personnel action.
So all’s well that ends well. Don’t be too sure. The collectors are filing a motion of reconsideration and, if that fails, they can elevate the case to the appellate court. Never underestimate their power to persuade the courts to find a legal provision to justify barring their reassignment “for exigency of the service.”
It was reported that Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima questioned the propriety of the transfer. Apparently, he has since withdrawn his objections. He himself has hailed the court decision.
Maybe President Aquino has prevailed upon him, but why would he object to a move whose intention was to reform the bureau?
Alvarez and the protesting collectors were on the take or they would have been allowed to remain at their posts. Therefore, they should be charged with plunder or, at least, with violation of the corrupt practices act.
The corrupt will defraud the government again and again if termination or reassignment is the only penalty for the crime, If they get caught, they can retire, as the collectors are planning to do.