SENATE President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Sunday admitted calling an official of the Bureau of Customs but insisted it was not to intervene or meddle with the with the bureau’s operations.
Recto said there was a time when he called a Customs official to inquire about a complaint he received from a businessman who claimed that he was harassed by some Customs personnel.
He said the businessman wanted to pay the proper taxes for his shipment instead of giving “grease money.”
Recto said he decided to call the Customs official to inquire about the information he received from his friend. He did not identify the official.
Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Danilo Lim earlier said there are “powerful forces” who intervene in the affairs of the bureau, making their jobs more difficult.
Lim, who resigned last week, admitted granting favors to high officials who have been calling him to avoid getting their ire.
A Manila Times source earlier identified Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. as among the “padrinos” of some officials of the agency.
The source also mentioned Customs Intelligence and Investigation Division chief Director Fernandino Tuazon, Deputy Commissioner Horacio Suansing, Deputy Commissioner Prudencio Reyes, Port of Manila Collector Roger Gatchalian, NAIA District Collector Ding So, X-Ray Division chief Collector Mimi Talusan and Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) chief Richard Rebong as the officials enjoying protection of influential patrons.
Recto urged Lim and other Customs officials to name the lawmakers and government officials who are interfering, or have interfered, with the bureau’s affairs.
On Friday, Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon called on all the agency’s district and sub-port collectors to resign to give him a free hand in reforming the graft-ridden bureau.
Gatchalian was among 12 collectors who turned in their resignations on Saturday.
The Civil Service Commission (CSC) however clarified that the courtesy resignations of Customs collectors are only for reassignment, not for dismissal.
CSC Chairman Francisco Duque 3rd said Biazon’s decision to reassign any of his employees is legal.
”Their courtesy resignations will give the Customs chief a free hand to reassign personnel in the bureau’s collection districts,” he said. “There will be no dismissal, no demotion in rank, and no reduction of salary or duties.”
The replacements to those who resigned will be subject to the approval of the Department of Finance (DOF), he said.
The Customs chief, Duque said, will submit his recommendations to Finance who will be retained or replaced.
As of press time, 12 of 57 port collectors have resigned.
Meanwhile, the Customs Collectors Association of the Philippines (CCAP) said it will not question Biazon’s order.
Port of Clark Collector Ronnie Silvestre, president of the CCAP, on Sunday said that the group is not making a common stand to contest Biazon’s directive that they all resign.
“What’s the use? It’s better that we all abide with the directive lest we be perceived or accused by the public as ‘kapit-tuko’ to our positions. We are giving him a free-hand,” Silvestre told The Manila Times.
He said majority of the district collectors have either formally submitted their courtesy resignations or have signified their intention to submit one before the Monday deadline.
Malacañang said that it will leave the matter for Biazon to resolve.
“Let’s wait for what happens tomorrow,” Palace spokesman Abigail Valte said. “Normally, we don’t comment on any internal—on any logistical or administrative matters within a particular agency.”
WITH A REPORT FROM WILLIAM DEPASUPIL