Biazon ‘shocked’ by political backers at BOCBy Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Who do they say is always the last to know?
Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon has expressed surprise over the number of Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials and employees who have political backers.
In a recent blog, Biazon said he was “not just talking about top level or even middle management, we’re talking about even down to the clerk level.”
“Once there was a person I put in the ‘customs navy’ (floating status). It wasn’t long before I received letters from three congressmen inquiring as to why that person was removed from his post,” he said.
Biazon said “one previous commissioner even had a political map of personnel in the bureau, identifying the connections the personnel had with those in power.”
The head of the Department of Finance-attached agency, who took the helm of the BOC in late 2011, tagged the “padrino system” (godfather or sponsor) as one of the “challenges that hamper the bureau’s journey toward being a reformed agency of government.”
Biazon said he was planning to push for a Congress measure prohibiting endorsements and recommendations from politicians and other persons of influence in the hiring and promotion of customs personnel.
In a text message to the Inquirer yesterday, he said he was “still thinking if I’ll push for that as a separate bill or incorporate it into the customs modernization bill.”
“As for other ideas on insulating the bureau from political patronage, I’ll bring them out at the appropriate time so as not to preempt them,” he said.
According to Biazon, the political patronage-related bill “should include the establishment of specific qualifications for anyone to be hired by the Bureau of Customs.”
“For instance, only those who have taken up customs administration or are licensed customs brokers should be hired,” he said.
Last week, he said the BOC would embark on a “proactive lobby and advocacy” for the passage of the customs modernization bill in the 16th Congress.
“We want it to become a priority legislation and be passed before President Aquino’s term ends in 2016. Because the first abrasive thing we should do to reform the bureau is to update the antiquated Tariff and Customs Code (which was enacted into law in 1957). All other efforts would be incomplete if we don’t do this basic step,” he had told the Customs Kapihan media forum.