SAVE for the collector at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), all of the district collectors of the Bureau of Customs have tendered their courtesy resignation as demanded by their chief, Commissioner Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon.
It was learned that 15 district collectors and 30 out of the 37 subport collectors complied with Biazon’s order before 5 p.m. yesterday.
NAIA Collector Carlos So, a lawyer, did not submit his courtesy resignation, according to Biazon’s office.
“Past the 5 p.m. deadline, the final tally is 15 district collectors and 30 subport collectors have resigned,” said an official at the Office of the Commissioner.
On Monday morning, Biazon issued a stern warning against those who would defy his order and threatened to assign them to the “navy,” meaning they would be placed on floating status.
“By the end of the day if I don’t receive all those letters, I will have the judgment. It only means they are not with me,” Biazon said. “And if they are not with me, they are against me.”
According to him, the courtesy resignations draw the line between those who are for reforms and those who are not.
“Compliance na lang yun eh, saan ba kukuha ng kapal ng mukha?” he told Customs personnel during the flag-raising ceremony.
Admitting that the bureau is experiencing a crisis of integrity, the Customs chief noted that President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s harsh remarks against the agency should serve as a wake-up call to all officials and employees.
“May this incident, which is not the first time, give a compelling reason for our colleagues in the Bureau of Customs to reform,” Biazon said.
He hinted that those who would not join his call for reforms and ignore his directive to submit their courtesy resignations would be sent to the “freezer.”
“If they will not support me, I will set them aside. There are vacancies in the Bureau of Customs Navy,” he emphasized.
Among those who complied with the order is Manila International Container Port Collector Ricardo Belmonte, the brother of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.
The Speaker made the disclosure in light of the accusations against him that he is using his influence as a politician for his brother’s gain.
“When this thing came up, I told him to quit but he initially said there are only six months to go before his 65th birthday and he felt he is entitled to retirement after serving Customs for 34 years. Now, he has decided that he is filing a courtesy resignation, probably today,” Belmonte said in an interview.
The lawmaker maintained that his brother never benefited from his political stature.
“I have never talked to anybody from the Bureau of Customs from the moment I returned to government service. In fact, my brother even suffered because of my political career, specifically when I switched allegiance to then candidate Senator [Benigno] Aquino [3rd]. At that time, he was removed from his position in Cebu despite being an award-winning collector,” Belmonte pointed out. He was referring to the time when he bolted the Lakas-Kampi political party of then President Gloria Arroyo to join then Aquino’s Liberal Party during the 2010 elections.
The House leader said he would support the filing of charges against lawmakers found meddling in the operations of the agency who could be identified by holding a formal inquiry into the allegations of resigned Customs deputy commissioners Danilo Lim and Juan Lorenzo Tañada.
While denying that he is among the many “padrinos” (godfather) to officials in the bureau, Belmonte said Lim and Tañada should name the politicians who are supposedly acting as backers of certain men in the agency.
“I cannot really believe that anybody here in Congress is so powerful to make things happen there [in Customs Bureau]. A letter of recommendation doesn’t have any weight. Here in Congress, lots of people go to your office to have their letter of recommendations signed by you. They will sit forever [in your office]if you don’t sign it,” Belmonte said.
Meanwhile, Customs officials presented to the media another set of seized smuggled items discovered by the x-ray inspection project at the Port of Manila. The contraband included misdeclared items that consists of clothings, bags, watches and medicines from Cambodia and Vietnam, 20 units of all-terrain vehicles from China and two generator sets that can energize a small barangay.
The estimated amount for the recently intercepted items was pegged at P90 million.