Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence retired Brig. General Danny Lim has called it quits and will submit his resignation to President Benigno Aquino 3rd today, a well-placed source told The Manila Times.
The source said Lim has become frustrated after his efforts to run after smugglers was undermined by some people in high places at the bureau. There were instances when the criminals were able to elude arrest after weeks of surveillance because of the collusion between the smugglers and some customs people, the source added.
The problem, according to the informant, is operational. Before any raid or arrest could be effected, an Alert Order is sent by the Intelligence Unit to the Commissioner for his approval. The space between the sending and the signing of the form is so wide that before the order could be approved by the Commissioner, someone at the bureau tips off the smugglers of the impending interdiction giving them time to clean up the place so that by the time the customs police arrive, the area has already been emptied of the contraband.
Lim said he is up against political heavyweights and that he needs the support of the Commissioner and the President in his fight against the smugglers to be successful.
He said that “he can’t fight city hall alone.” The Customs bureau is infested with political appointees or officials backed up by politicians, some Cabinet members, and some individuals close to the Palace, the Times informant said.
“He tried to resign six times over the 3-year period and had asked the President to take him out of customs and assign him elsewhere. Anywhere, huwag lang daw Customs,” the source said. Lim was however advised “to stay put until such time that a vacancy in another government office presents itself,” the source added, quoting Lim.
He said that “for as long as Biazon is at the helm of Customs Bureau, nothing will ever change.”
The source said Lim was so disgusted over the decision of Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Ruffy Biazon to remain in his post even after he and the bureau were derided and shamed by the President on Monday in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) for gross incompetence and corrupt practices.
“Any self-respecting person would have tendered his irrevocable resignation for being publicly humiliated by your boss,” the source added. He said Biazon’s decision to stay on was, for Lim, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Biazon has been the subject of complaints from various industry leaders for uncontrolled smuggling at the ports. The livestock and poultry raisers for one, are up in arms against the Customs chief for his failure to curb smuggling. Some P3.7 billion is lost to technical smuggling of poultry and livestock. Another P200 billion is lost annually due to smuggling, figures from the Department of Finance would show.
The Automotive Association of the Philippines has likewise brought to the attention of Biazon the problem of unabated smuggling of cars through Subic Freeport, Port of Irene in Cagayan and Cebu. Rice traders are also in no mood to see the Commissioner remain in his post.
The case of the 2,000 40-footer container vans that were spirited out of the customs zone without paying the duties and taxes remains unresolved.
When Biazon took over Customs from then Commissioner Angelito Alvarez, public expectations were high that he would be able to identify the people behind the heist and file criminal charges against them in court. No such thing happened. Nothing is being said about the missing container vans anymore. It is as if the Customs Bureau is suffering from amnesia.
By resigning, Gen. Lim is hoping that others in the bureau, particularly Biazon, would also tender their irrevocable resignations to the President. That way, the President would have a free hand and a fresh start by appointing new faces to the bureau, people with impeccable credentials and proven integrity, the Times informant said, again quoting Lim.