Customs poser: Will ‘3 kings’ remain at bureau?

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Will the so-called “three kings” at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) be included in the next agency revamp, which Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said was aimed at improving revenue collections?

In a text message, the former Muntinlupa City legislator told the Inquirer he would like the next BOC reconfiguration and who may be affected by it to be kept firmly under wraps for now.

However, he said, he would have no second thoughts about reassigning or reshuffling customs officials who may not measure up to expectations.

The reconfiguration of the BOC’s organizational structure is designed mainly to reposition district collectors where they can be most productive.

Biazon said the revamp “would be a continuing thing.”

In January, the first major reshuffle of BOC district collectors raised eyebrows at the Department of Finance-attached agency due to the noninclusion in the revamp of those whom bureau insiders called the “three kings.”

Customs insiders were referring to collectors Ricardo Belmonte, Rogel Gatchalian and Carlos So, heads of the Manila International Container Port, Port of Manila and the BOC office at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, respectively.

Belmonte is the younger brother of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, while Gatchalian is said to be backed by former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and So, by the influential Iglesia ni Cristo.

BOC personnel also noted that all three ports were among the collection districts that failed to meet their revenue targets last year, as well as in the first five months of 2013.

Sought for comment on reports that some customs officials were anxious and “having sleepless nights” over the next revamp, Biazon said in jest: “Now they know the feeling of being the subject of talk that I would be replaced shortly.”

“Seriously, those officials just have to go on and do their jobs. If they get transferred, all they need is to do their best in those positions,” he said.

Biazon said the transfer to another post was “not a death sentence” but actually “an opportunity for them to show their best.”

“Probably, those who stand to lose something are those who are afraid of being included in the reshuffle,” he said.

Last week, Biazon denied rumors he had resigned from the BOC, saying that his five-day trip to Brussels at the time was an official one.

On the contrary, he was working on pursuing reforms at the bureau, he said in a statement.

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