Several district collectors have complied with the directive of Commissioner Ruffy Biazon to relinquish their posts in preparation for reassignment in the first round of a wide-ranging reform at the Bureau of Customs.
At press time, at least 12 district collectors from various ports and subports in the country had submitted letters taking leave of their positions to Biazon.
The customs bureau has 17 major port collectors and 37 subport collectors nationwide.
Biazon issued a memorandum on Friday directing the officials to vacate their current assignments in writing on or before Monday.
Among those who have complied is Port of Manila district collector Rogel Gatchalian, one of the so-called “three kings” or well-connected collectors who head the three Metro Manila revenue districts.
“This is to give the commissioner a free hand to decide … and to show that I’m not clinging to my post,” said Gatchalian in a text message.
Gatchalian, who has been POM district collector for the past three years, also denied he was being backed by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
“[I want] to disprove the allegation that Senator Enrile is meddling in the affairs of the bureau in my favor,” he said.
The two other so-called “kings” are Ricardo Belmonte, younger brother of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and district collector at the Manila International Container Port, and Carlos So who heads the Ninoy Aquino International Airport customs district.
Belmonte has yet to submit a letter to Biazon but in an interview on Friday, he indicated he would comply with the directive.
“We are always ready for a revamp. Anytime that the commissioner says you go, we follow,” he said.
The other district collectors who have vacated their posts are Edward James Dy Buco, Port of Davao; Ronnie Silvestre, Port of Clark; Adelina Molina, Subic; Edward de la Cuesta, Cebu; Oswaldo Geli, Surigao; and Darwisha Shuck, Zamboanga.
Subport collectors Noah Dimaporo, Harbour Center; Jemima Sy-Flores, North Harbor; Josefa Villaseñor, Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte; Pendatun Alim, Dadiangas Port in General Santos City, and Pedro Quinones, Parang Port in Maguindanao, have also submitted their letters to Biazon.
Lourdes Mangaoang, collector at the Cagayan de Oro port, has yet to submit her letter of withdrawal but has signified her intention to vacate the post.
Biazon’s directive came just days after a stinging public rebuke of Customs personnel by President Aquino in his State of the Nation Address on July 22.
Biazon said the revamp of district collectors was just the first round of a process of reassignments that would be implemented at the agency.
He said he would submit his recommendations on which collectors would be retained and which ones would be replaced to the Department of Finance.
“The replacements are subject to the approval of the DOF. Under the law, I may designate the person to be assigned to a particular post but it has to be approved by the secretary of finance,” he said.