SONA 2013
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Of heroes, anti-heroes: Biazon offers to quit

By , Jerry Esplanada and Christian Esguerra

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

“I immediately offered my resignation after the President’s speech.”

So said Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon in a text message to the Inquirer after President Aquino criticized the Bureau of Customs and two other agencies in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) for incompetence.

Biazon said he was not in the House of Representatives as Aquino spoke “so I immediately communicated with the President by cell phone.”

“His reply was: ‘Ruffy, we both know the difficulties in the agency you are trying to reform. My confidence in you remains the same.’”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda confirmed that the President sent the text message to Biazon.

That meant the President had not yet accepted Biazon’s resignation.

Riled by corruption in his administration, Aquino on Monday skewered misfits in the bureaucracy and vowed to hold accountable the corrupt who refused to turn their back on the “wangwang” (siren) culture.

But Aquino spoke proudly of public servants who remained faithful to their duty and performed well, among them police officers who shone in the ranks for outstanding performance.

Peace officers stood out in Aquino’s fourth Sona, which honored ordinary achievers but shamed nonperformers in his Cabinet.

Among the nonperformers, Aquino singled out officials and personnel of the Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Immigration and Deportation and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for their incompetence, saying they had no place in the government.

“Where do these people get the gall (Saan po kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha ang mga kawani sa ahensyang ito)?” Aquino asked, referring to customs personnel who abetted the smuggling of goods, drugs and arms into the country’s ports.

“One can almost hear them say, ‘I don’t care if the weapons go to criminal elements. I don’t care how many lives are ruined by drugs. I don’t care if our fields remain barren forever. What matters is that I am rich.’ It’s every man for himself,” he said.

Aquino warned: “Such practices have no place in the government. If you cannot do your job, you do not deserve to remain in office.”

The President said he had repeatedly admonished the immigration bureau to improve its watch over the country’s seaports and airports, but Filipinos and foreigners facing charges in court still managed to slip out.

“How then was it possible for the brothers Joel and Mario Reyes, the principal suspects in the slaying of Gerry Ortega, to leave the country?” he said, referring to the suspects in the January 2011 killing of the Palawan environmentalist.

“How could the escape of the Korean Park Sung-jun—as blatantly seen in CCTV footage—have taken place?

Aquino last week accepted the resignation of Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David.

The President admitted that the NIA’s “make-do” culture that encouraged its personnel to merely rehabilitate existing irrigation facilities also “tested” his patience.

“For them, shoddy repairs are enough to say they have already done a good job. During their anniversary, I asked them why only 60 percent of their target was accomplished in 2012, when they had reached 80 percent in 2011,” he said.

NIA Administrator Antonio Nangel reasoned out that 40 percent of the target areas were located in Mindanao and devastated by Typhoon “Pablo,” an explanation that Aquino refused to accept because the storm struck in December 2012.

Aquino let go of Nangel early this month after publicly scolding him at NIA’s anniversary over unmet targets.

In the case of the BOC, the President said, “Instead of collecting the proper taxes and preventing contraband from entering the country, they are heedlessly permitting the smuggling of goods and even drugs, arms and other items of a similar nature into our territory.”

Even so, the President urged the “conscientious” employees of the three agencies not to lie low, but “prevent wrongdoing.”

Former leadership of Tesda is now being held accountable for overpriced purchases during the term of Augusto Syjuco Jr., the President said.

Among law enforcers, Aquino extolled the likes of PO3 Edlyn Arbo, PO2 Dondon Sultan and PO3 Felipe Moncatar.

Arbo fought off a jeepney robber and got stabbed in the effort. Sultan assisted a motorist who had a flat tire, refusing to accept anything in return. Moncatar had received countless commendations for arresting “most wanted” criminals in Bacolod City and putting them in jail.

Aquino praised the three police officers for their excellence amid a scandal involving the alleged summary execution by police of two leaders of a robbery gang in Laguna province last week.

Investigators are looking into the angle that convicted robbers Ricky Cadavero and Wilfredo Panogalinga Jr. were executed to prevent them from spilling the beans on their police handlers.

But to “whoever masterminded” the alleged rubout, the President issued a stern warning: “Prepare yourselves. I am close to finding out who you are.”

Aquino also praised Education Secretary Armin Luistro for erasing the backlog in textbooks and chairs inherited from the previous administration, and for the implementation of the K to 12 education program.

“If Brother Armin didn’t have strength of will, he could have just left this culture of negligence in his agency for his successor to deal with. He could have also left the backlog, as well as the growing gap of needs because of the rising number of enrolees each year. But instead of being content, instead of saying, ‘This will do. My job is done,’ Brother Armin will build even more chairs and classrooms, and buy even more books, to ensure that even the needs of future years will also be met,” Aquino said.

ARMM governor

He also mentioned Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for the peaceful conduct of elections in the region in May.

“He could not remember a time in his life when Lanao del Sur did not suffer a failure of elections,” Aquino said. “This 2013, because our uniformed forces had to safeguard elections across the entire country, there were those who thought the situation in ARMM would only get worse. But we have seen how vastly it has improved: ARMM successfully held a clean, safe and fair election. Votes were counted, and those whom the people charged with new mandates were proclaimed,” Aquino said.

The President cited his ally Sen. Franklin Drilon, who was elected Monday as president of the Senate, for helping to launch the second phase of the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project in Iloilo, ending 50 years of waiting for the people of the province.

Aquino also cited the reforms initiated by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, who did away with “letters of intent” that bidders used in conspiring to inflate costs of and gain more profit, and simplified the bidding processes.

Without mentioning him by name, the President praised Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez for the breaching of tourist arrival targets.

Aquino cited Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario for putting himself in harm’s way to help Filipinos trapped in Libya during the Arab Spring uprising; the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo for not only transforming society but also inspiring others; and Presidential Security Group chief Brig. Gen. Ramon Mateo Dizon for protecting him at the height of the military coups against his mother, President Corazon Aquino, in the 1980s.—With a report from Tetch Torres-Tupas, INQUIRER.net

Originally posted at 9:09 p.m. | July 22, 2013

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Tags: Benigno Aquino III , Graft and Corruption , Philippines , Rufino Biazon , SONA 2013 , State of the Nation Address

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