CUSTOMS Commissioner Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon, in what could be his last big chance to cleanse the corruption-ridden bureau, on Friday ordered all district and sub-port collectors to submit their resignations not later than Monday.
Biazon said that after the resignations are turned in, all the positions would be declared vacant.
That would give him a free hand to reshuffle the heads of the Customs’ 15 collection districts, he said.
Biazon issued the directive three days after President Benigno Aquino 3rd berated the bureau in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) for failing to uproot corruption.
“It doesn’t mean the problem is solved but it will at least give a fresh start to institute reforms down the line,” he said.
He made it clear that any Customs reorganization is subject to the approval of Department of Finance.
Biazon said he was not blaming the port collectors for the shortcomings of the bureau, particularly in its flagging fight against corruption and perennial revenue collection shortfall.
Among the country’s biggest ports are the Port of Manila, headed by Collector Rogel Gatchalian, Manila International Container Port of Collector Ricardo “Boysie” Belmonte, NAIA Collection District of Collector Ding So, Port of Cebu of Collector Edward dela Cuesta, and Port of Batangas Collector Adelina Molina.
Earlier, a well-placed source told The Manila Times that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. were among the “padrinos” or godfathers protecting some ranking customs officials.
The source mentioned Collector Belmonte, who is the younger brother of the Speaker, Gatchalian who is reportedly a protégée of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and So, who is being backed by an influential religious sect, among others.
Belmonte, Gatchalian and So are dubbed as the “three kings” of customs because they have kept their posts for so long.
Early this year, Biazon issued memorandum ordering the reshuffle of key customs officials, including Belmonte, Gatchalian and So.
But revamp was carried out.
Biazon texted his offer to resign to the President right after the SONA. The President told him to stay on.
Deputy Commissioners Danilo Lim and Juan Lorenzo Tanada also turned in the resignations but Malacañang has not acted on them.
As of Friday afternoon, only Edward James Dy Buco from the Port of Davao has submitted his resignation.
With a report from Sheila Mañalac