• PNoy urged to name Customs chief without political ambitions

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    The next Bureau of Customs chief should not have political ambitions, a lawmaker said Thursday.

    Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela City made the appeal to President Benigno Aquino 3rd a day after the Chief Executive named Undersecretary John Philip “Sunny” Sevilla of the Department of Finance as officer-in-charge of the Customs bureau following the resignation of outgoing Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon.

    Biazon, a former Muntinlupa City representative, resigned after the Department of Justice filed a P1.95 million graft charges against him in connection with the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or Congressional discretionary fund scam. The PDAF scam is allegedly a scheme orchestrated by Janet Napoles by channeling PDAF funds to bogus organizations that Napoles owns.

    “The government should start appointing corporate professionals instead of bureaucrats who either have political biases or plan to run for public office in the future. We need someone with strong managerial skills and the moral muscle to fight corruption to rid the Bureau of misfits,” Gatchalian, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition which is allied with President Aquino, pointed out.

    The Bureau of Customs is a line agency under the Department of Finance headed by Secretary Cesar Purisima, a former Cabinet member of former President Gloria Arroyo who is detained for plunder charges.

    “We need someone fearless, a visionary who can influence those who resist change, an activist who can carry out reforms yet mindful of the employees’ welfare, someone who is not afraid to send smugglers and misguided personnel to jail,” Gatchalian added.

    And with the high incidence of smuggling and the apparent existence of syndicates working within the system waiting the next Customs chief, Gatchalian pitched that the Customs bureau should step up its automation process and reduce the number of ports where the Customs bureau has a dedicated Customs presence posted.

    Face-to-face transactions between front-line personnel and importers, Gatchalian cited, should eventually be decimated once full automation is gradually introduced in smaller and manageable customs hubs like Subic, Clark, Cagayan and eventually Davao, Cebu, Batangas and Manila.

    “Implementing tangible organizational reforms in the bureau is critical in its pursuit to achieve collection efficiency and establish a moral high ground. With reduced human intervention, we will be able to strengthen enforcement and restricting pilferage and smuggling in static ports,” Gatchalian argued. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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