MANILA, Philippines—One of the so-called “Three Kings” at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) did not heed Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon’s directive to district and subport collectors to submit a letter relinquishing their posts.
As of 5 p.m. on Monday (the end of the work day), Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) district collector Carlos So had not yet submitted his letter signifying his intention to vacate his post.
So, along with Port of Manila district collector Rogel Gatchalian and Manila International Container Port collector Ricardo Belmonte are the so-called “three kings” at the BOC.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried but failed to reach So for comment.
Biazon on Friday warned that BOC district and subport collectors who did not submit letters vacating their posts would be placed on a floating status.
As of 2:30 p.m. on Monday, a total of 45 district and subport collectors had complied with Biazon’s order to relinquish their posts in preparation for a reassignment in the first round of a wide-ranging reform in the agency.
“If they don’t comply within the day or within the timeline specified, it only means they don’t support my effort. Those who don’t support my effort would be taken out of the way,” Biazon told reporters Monday during the inspection of some P45 million worth of smuggled items at the Port of Manila.
The BOC has 17 major ports and 37 subports nationwide.
Monday 5 p.m. deadline
Biazon, who issued the order last Friday, gave the officials until 5 p.m. on Monday to submit their letters.
Belmonte and Gatchalian, who already complied with Biazon’s directive over the weekend, and So are said to be politically well-connected collectors who head the three Metro Manila revenue districts and reportedly do not want to be removed or reassigned elsewhere.
Gatchalian, Belmonte and So somehow escaped being included in the first major revamp of district collectors undertaken by Biazon early this year despite the revenue districts they headed failing to meet their revenue targets last year and in the first five months of 2013.
Belmonte is said to be backed by his brother, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Gatchalian by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, and So by the influential Iglesia ni Cristo.
In an interview on Monday, Biazon said: “If our direction is moving forward in terms of reforms and they don’t support it, definitely I’ll get them out of the way… may bakante sa customs’ navy (floating status),” he said.
While admitting that he could not terminate the officials from the bureau, Biazon said he had the authority to replace or relieve them from their posts.
Apart from So, Julius Premediles of the Port of Iloilo and seven subport collectors have not submitted their letters of relinquishment.
The 13 other district collectors, apart from Belmonte and Gatchalian, who complied with Biazon’s directive were Fidel Villanueva of the Port of San Fernando, Tomas Alcid of Batangas, Edward dela Cuesta of Cebu, Nelson Belen of Tacloban, Oswaldo Geli of Surigao, Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang of Cagayan de Oro, Darwisha Schuck or Zamboanga, Eduard James Dybuco of Davao, Adelina Molina of Subic, Ronnie Silvestre of Clark International Airport, Leilani Alameda of Aparri, Elvira Cruz of Limay and Leovigildo Dayoja of Legaspi.
30 subport posts vacated
The BOC said 30 subport posts have already been vacated.
Biazon refused to say who among the officials would be replaced, retained or would be placed on a floating status.
“The evaluation is still ongoing….a good performance will be considered,” he said.
Asked if there were people lobbying for particular post, Biazon said he has not received any so far.
“I’ve not received any. First of all, it is not yet known which among the posts will be vacated. Let it be said that their relinquishment will be final upon my action on the letters they submitted. The officials who submitted the letters will still be on a hold order capacity so the operation at the ports will not be affected,” Biazon said.
He added that the new assignments would still need the approval of the Department of Finance.
Biazon, during the flag-raising ceremony at the bureau on Monday, reminded the employees and officials to support reform efforts by the government.
“Twenty months have passed and we exercised so much patience, but everything comes to an end,” he told reporters in an interview.
“I called on them again to do what is expected from us. The President must have already run out of patience, it would be much worse if the people would be the ones losing their patience,” he said.
“I explained to them that this is an opportunity for us to prove to the world, to everyone that we are serious in reforms and it is a call for each and every official and employee of the BOC to make history and be part of the generation that reforms Customs, I told them this has been going on for generations, let it stop here,” he added.
“This is a job, a mission that has been given to me and I intend to fulfill it. Although I could easily walk away from this and save myself from being tarnished, I believe that this mission is worth fighting for to be able to reform the bureau, that’s the only reason why I accepted this job. I did not ask for it, it was offered to me. I saw the President had the political will and determination to reform Customs,” Biazon said.