NOY REJECTED LIM'S RESIGNATION / CUSTOMS SHAKEUP STARTS



Lim still in? PNoy says no to Customs exec's offer to resign - report (philstar.com) | Updated July 24, 2013 - 4:51pm 11 163 googleplus0 0 In this July file photo, Bureau of Customs Deputy Commissioner Danilo Lim intercepts smuggled clothing and goods with Commissioner Ruffy Biazon. BOC PHOTO

MANILA, July 29, 2013 (PHILSTAR) President Benigno Aquino III rejected the Deputy Customs Commissioner for Intelligence Danilo Lim's offer to resign, a report said.

Lim revealed to GMA News in a phone interview Wednesday that Aquino refused to let him go even after the president criticized the bureau in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Lim is the second Customs official who tendered his resignation amid recent controversies hounding the bureau, followed by another deputy commissioner Juan Lorenzo Tañada who offered to quit Wednesday.

Earlier, Aquino also rejected Commissioner Ruffy Biazon's plan to quit his post after the SONA, saying he still has confidence in the Customs chief.

Malacañang has said that like Biazon's letter of resignation, Lim and Tañada's offers are not irrevocable.

Lim, who submitted his resignation to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, earlier said that "powerful forces" inside the agency led him to his decision to resign. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

"Meron tayong gagawin, meron tayong ia-alert o huhulihin, kakaalis mo pa lang, marami nang tumatawag, nakikiusap. Napipilitan tayo. Kung minsan, nagba-balancing act. Kung minsan, 'pag hindi mo napagbigyan, may sasama ang loob, magtatampo," Lim, a former Army brigadier general, said.

He also explained that the demands of the job have been posing risks to his health.

"Mahirap ang trabaho sa BOC. Nung bago ako pumasok diyan, napakaganda ng health ko. Ngayon, nag-uumpisa na kong mag-take ng maintenance na gamot para sa high blood. Hindi biro ang trabaho diyan," Lim said. - Camille Diola

Customs shakeup starts By Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 27, 2013 - 12:00am 1 8 googleplus0 0 Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon

MANILA, Philippines - Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon yesterday ordered all 17 district collectors and 37 subport collectors to relinquish their posts by Monday to pave the way for a major revamp of the bureau.

Biazon issued a one-page memorandum on the “personnel movement,” stating that this was needed “in the best interest of providing service.”

As of yesterday afternoon, two collectors had complied with Biazon’s directive: Edward James Dy Buco, assigned in Davao, and Ronnie Silvestre, assigned at the Clark freeport in Pampanga.

Biazon said the memorandum was a step toward the reforms he is initiating in the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

When asked if “powerful forces” might attempt to interfere in the revamp, he said, “I hope they would take it upon themselves not to intervene.”

The district collectors are under the Office of the Commissioner, who has the authority to transfer them to other assignments.

The BOC is evaluating the performance of each of the district collectors and subport collectors.

“In the best interest of providing service, all districts and subport collectors/officers-in-charge of ports and subports are hereby directed to relinquish their current assignment or designation in writing, on or before Monday, 29 July 2013. This order is pursuant to Section 703 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, as amended. All assignments or designations shall be considered relinquished upon acceptance or action by the undersigned,” the memorandum read.

The BOC chief said the reshuffle of the district collectors would depend on their performance, their ability to meet collection targets and their record of enforcements, if they have been the subject of complaints and if they have a high “level of notoriety.”

Biazon will submit the new assignments next week to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and the collectors will know if they will be retained in their current posts or be given new assignments.

“Some would be immediately replaced,” Biazon said.

By law, before he can announce the collectors’ new assignments, he needs the approval of the finance secretary.

Biazon reiterated that the reshuffle of collectors would not solve the problem of smuggling and corruption. But he said having “new leaders in these collection districts will at least give a fresh start on how to institute reforms down the line.”

Lifestyle checks OK’d

Meanwhile, Malacañang approved the proposal to conduct lifestyle checks on officials of the BOC by agents of a task force under the Department of Finance.

“We have no opposition to the Revenue Integrity Protection Service carrying out their mandate,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said, referring to RIPS, a unit within the DOF, which has jurisdiction over the BOC.

Valte said that RIPS’ job or mandate has not ceased.

Valte also denied reports that dragged the name of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. in the alleged smuggling anomalies.

She said Ochoa confirmed having recommended lawyer Peter Manzano as BOC deputy commissioner when there was a vacancy, but that this was all there was to it.

“He confirms that he was the one who recommended Manzano, but that’s it. The ES has nothing to do with any transactions, any illegal or otherwise, that have been mentioned in the course of these reports,” Valte explained.

She denied news reports that Ochoa was involved in smuggling, saying there is “no truth to that, there is no truth to that.”

In an interview, Lim said some tips about smuggling were received informally and could not be verified.

Valte said President Aquino’s action on the offer of resignation of Deputy Commissioners Danilo Lim and Lorenzo Tañada might take some time.

“Both resignations are still being processed. We have no word from the President yet on whether these two will be accepted or rejected,” she said. “Normally, we do take some time to process any resignation that is submitted.”

‘Anomalies solved soon’

All the anomalies in the BOC will be addressed once the reform planned by the Aquino administration is carried out, the Presidential Communications Operations Office website stated Thursday.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that drastic changes will be seen in the bureau once the government implements the reforms mentioned by Aquino in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Action is being done as we speak,” Lacierda said in his regular press briefing.

In his fourth SONA last Monday, Aquino had lambasted the BOC for corruption and what he described as the incompetence of its personnel.

Biazon offered to resign but this was rejected. Lim later complained that “powerful forces” were hindering BOC operations.

Despite the administration’s thrust to clean up the bureau, goods, drugs and weapons continued to be smuggled into the country, he noted.

The DOF estimated that the government loses some P200 billion yearly as a result of rampant smuggling. With Delon Porcalla

Why was Biazon’s resignation rejected? Palace explains By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 24, 2013 - 12:00am 32 28 googleplus0 9

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday took up the cudgels for beleaguered Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, whose resignation was rejected by President Aquino after an outburst of the Chief Executive in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday about unabated corruption in the bureau.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also confirmed Aquino turned down the offer of Biazon to step down, which the Customs chief made by text message late Monday afternoon.

“That is correct. It will be interpreted that way, as Commissioner Biazon had already shared in his Twitter account yesterday (Monday) the President’s response that the confidence remains,” Valte told reporters in a news briefing.

“Both gentlemen know the challenges as well as the limitations that are being faced by Commissioner Biazon in the (Bureau of) Customs, and that the confidence in the commissioner remains,” Valte stressed.

Valte remarked that in the past, this has been the signal to replace the head of the agency concerned.

“But sometimes, if we take a step back and we look: Is it something that the leader can do alone? Or is it something that he cannot do alone?” she said. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Valte pointed out that in all organizations, there are the “bad eggs” that don’t toe the line, or those who can be considered as recidivists, or those who continue with their old ways.

“He (Biazon) is but one, and given that the problem in Customs is not that simple – that corruption is well-entrenched and has been endemic, and this is becoming systemic. This is one opportunity for the head of the agency to perform his mandate,” Valte said.

She said the President understands the predicament or the situation of Biazon, and knows fully well the challenges ahead in implementing the reforms that need to be carried out.

“Commissioner Biazon knows what to do, and if we are to listen to the President, it is properly categorized as this is the shot across the bow already,” Valte related.

“This is already a warning.”

“The President was very explicit that his patience is running out with those whose agencies are not performing their mandate, who think that all of these will pass. We can’t sit this out. They are mistaken and, obviously, the President has his eyes on them,” she said.

The principle of command responsibility, Valte pointed out, actually reached Biazon, but it was only that the Customs chief “takes responsibility for the things that are happening.”

“But, again, the President is also very cognizant of the challenges, as well as the limitations, that have faced the commissioner since the time he was appointed,” Valte added.

Biazon yesterday admitted he has been mulling over the idea of giving up.

After thanking the President for his continued confidence, Biazon said, “Sometime in the near future I would hang up the gloves because sometimes you begin to think if this is all worth it. If all the effort you do, you put into it, is all worth it. If nothing would come out of it, why stay on?”

“I have a vision, I have a plan. But as far as staying in the bureau, I take it day-to-day. I would not shed a tear in losing the post. But I am really willing to fight for what I believe in,” he said.

Biazon said that since he assumed the position as Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief some 20 months ago, he has treated his stay at the agency a day at a time, aware that anytime he could be removed from the post.

Biazon confirmed sending a text message to Aquino, offering to resign. The President, however, told Biazon he is aware of the difficulties in implementing changes in the bureau and assured him he still has confidence in him.

When he asked why he did not submit his irrevocable resignation, Biazon said he would have regretted giving up on his hard work had he left the bureau yesterday.

Biazon also said he does not hold any grudges against Aquino. He also admitted that he does not belong to the close circle of friends of the President.

‘Mixed signals’

According to Biazon, his wife became distraught when she learned the President was mentioning the Customs in his SONA and expressing dissatisfaction on the way things are going in the bureau.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said Aquino’s tirade against the Customs during the SONA was not meant to oust his son.

The elder Biazon said the tirade actually meant to give his son a free rein to reform the BOC.

“The President’s speech was an apparent declaration that the Commissioner enjoys his support in battling grafters. His attempt to cleanse the BOC of graft has been slowed down by several factors, and that includes influential people,” the elder Biazon said.

“The statement of President Aquino set Commissioner Biazon free, a signal for him to do what he has to do in the Bureau,” he said.

In his SONA, Aquino openly lambasted the BOC for allegedly failing to stop the smuggling of illegal firearms and prohibited drugs and for losing some P200 billion in collections.

The Customs chief though did not confirm if President Aquino’s statement was accurate, but he said they are now preparing a report to be submitted to Malacañang that would show their campaign against smuggling.

The younger Biazon stressed the need to begin a top-down cleansing of the bureau, which is perceived to be the most corrupt institution in government amid rampant smuggling of oil and agricultural products.

He said the country’s problem of a corrupt culture remains so strong that sacking the officials of the agency will not solve the problem.

According to Biazon, it was difficult to break up the padrino system inside and outside of the Customs, as corruption is deeply entrenched in its culture and system.

But if he does decide to make the big change and later resign, Biazon said he would still work for reforms in the Customs from the outside.

Opposition leader Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said Biazon did the right thing in offering his resignation.

However, the President was sending mixed signals when he refused to accept Biazon’s resignation.

Tiangco said the President’s message against corruption in his SONA was clear and forthright, but drifted off when Biazon offered to resign from the agency.

“The response of the President was puzzling, especially if you consider the harsh words and the serious warning he issued against the BOC,” Tiangco said.

Rosendo So, chairman of Abono party-list, said it is possible that Aquino might have felt embarrassed because he personally handpicked Biazon to lead the Customs.

He said Biazon did not pursue his planned revamp for key positions in the agency when he assumed his post, thus making him ineffective.

He added Biazon also mentioned there were politicians who are protectors of smugglers but he did not name names.

“The Customs leader should show to his followers that he means business for everybody down to the lowest rank to toe the line,” So said.

So lauded President Aquino for his harsh words for the Customs during his SONA but added he should have accepted Biazon’s resignation.

He said if Biazon really wants to resign, he should do so irrevocably.

‘Changing the game’

Biazon, for his part, warned his fellow Customs officials and personnel to take the President’s statement in his SONA seriously.

“We should accept the words of the President as a prelude of what is to come,” he said.

Biazon said this was the second time, since he became Customs commissioner, that the President complained about the BOC’s performance.

The first was during last year’s BOC’s anniversary when Biazon was only three months in office.

Since they have been reprimanded twice, “it is now time that we wake up… I believe that the extent of the problem is that sometimes we have to consider drastic solutions… You can expect that soon, it would be the agency that would be sentenced.”

Biazon said they have been going after smugglers and some BOC personnel have been removed from their post, but he believed that in order to reform the bureau, they should change the system.

They should “not just change the player, but change the game,” he said.

A few months ago, Biazon mentioned about having a “born again” Customs bureau. Some of the reforms he is pushing are the computerization of the system and paperless transactions to lessen human intervention.

There is a plan to revamp the personnel and making changes in the system. While Biazon admits the government cannot abolish the BOC since it looks after security of the goods entering the country, he believes there is a way to break the system of corruption. – Evelyn Macairan, Zinnia dela Peña, Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano, Eva Visperas


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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