Customs chief ready to go if Aquino wants him out
MANILA, Philippines—Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez said Saturday he was prepared to leave his post if President Benigno Aquino wished to replace him, but he also claimed that “vested interests” hurt by his policy at the Bureau of Customs were going after his head.
“In this line of work, you’re living by the day. If it pleases the President that I should go, then I cannot do anything,” Alvarez said. “I serve at the pleasure of the President. If it’s time, then I’ll let go.”
Alvarez said that the President had yet to talk to him but he added that he had also heard talk that former Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Liwayway Vinzons-Chato was going to replace him.
“This is one of the hardest posts in government. Many of my predecessors stayed only an average of eight months. But as (Finance) Secretary (Cesar) Purisima noted, I’ve been here for three quarters,” Alvarez said.
The customs chief blamed “powerful politicians” and “vested interests” for waging a hate campaign against him after he instituted reforms at the bureau.
“We’ve been filing cases every Thursday (at the Department of Justice) and that has hurt many, not just vested interests but also powerful politicians,” Alvarez said.
He said the bureau filed these cases although it meant going against vested interests in oil, food, and other industries and their allied politicians.
“If you level the playing field, one sector will be glad but there are others who won’t be happy,” Alvarez said.
He said charges were also filed against customs officials involved in smuggling cases and they were also after him.
He added that he had also “leveled the playing field” at the bureau unlike before when “only eight brokers cornered the business here at Aduana.”
“Because of our efforts, the BOC went down in the corruption index from No. 2 to No. 7. Our collection went up by P9.5 billion although the tariffs on many goods have gone down,” Alvarez said.
“But they went after me as if I’m a politician. In Davao, they even printed leaflets saying that I should be fired,” he added.
He said the biggest case they leveled against him was the issue of the “hot cars” that was recently exposed but he insisted that the case happened before he became customs chief.
Alvarez said he was set to retire from the private sector when President Aquino appointed him to head the bureau.
Former Revenue Commissioner Guillermo Parayno “was set to be appointed but that did not push through and so Secretary Purisima called me and said I should take the job,” he said.
“If they tell me time’s up, then I’ll let go. I can say that I did my share. I could go back to the private sector or maybe take a vacation,” he added.
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