Who’s in, out at customs known in 2 weeks | Inquirer News

Who’s in, out at customs known in 2 weeks

SHAPE UP OR SHIP OUT In a closed-door meeting Friday, Customs Chief Ruffy Biazon urged 47 customs collectors from all over the country, whom he called “little commissioners,” to reform their turf to lift the bureau from its crisis mode. (Inset, from left) The so-called Three Kings: Carlos So, reportedly backed by the Iglesia ni Cristo, Rogel Gatchalian, reportedly backed by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, and Ricardo Belmonte reportedly backed by his brother, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

Don’t expect all their heads to roll.

Nearly two weeks after President Aquino railed against corruption in the Bureau of Customs, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon on Friday said he would announce within two weeks who among the district and subport customs collectors would be reshuffled.


Biazon also urged the collectors—whom he described as “little commissioners”—to reform thoroughly their old jurisdictions or new assignments during a closed-door meeting with 47 of them in Manila Friday morning.


He said he also ordered the heads of the bureau’s intelligence and enforcement divisions to submit reorganization plans so that these could also be revamped.

“We have a timetable of two weeks [for the collectors’ reshuffle] to also get the go-signal of higher-ups for the new assignments,” Biazon said in a press conference after the meeting.


“The bureau is in a crisis… It has been suffering from negative perception and therefore, each and every one of us must provide the desire and the determination to earn the trust of the Filipino people,” he said.

Biazon said he would decide who among the collectors should be removed and his decision would be based on their performance as revenue collectors (40 percent), enforcement against smuggling (30 percent) and feedback from “stakeholders,” presumably the public (30 percent).


Collectors’ support

He noted that the district and subport collectors had already given him either written or verbal assurances that they were willing to relinquish their posts.

“By submitting your letters of relinquishment, you are showing that you are one with our reform program, you are committed,” Biazon said he told the collectors.

“And, of course, with your commitment comes my expectations. And if my expectations are failed, then sorry. We have to set you aside,” he said.

“Because as we strive for reform, it is either everyone is on board or you get left behind,” he added.

But being left behind apparently does not necessarily mean being kicked out of the agency, as Biazon also said no collector would be fired or demoted.

When asked about criticisms that he was just shuffling people around, Biazon said: “Probably, the one who made that comment does not know the process of removing somebody from office.”

He pointed out that kicking out people from the civil service requires bringing lawsuits to accord them due process.

Due process

“You cannot just fire somebody from the civil service. But definitely, we are looking for such cases and in my term, there have been many who have been dismissed from the service, even up to the rank of collector,” Biazon said.

He said he also exhorted the collectors to defy padrinos, or power brokers who support corrupt customs employees.

“We have talked about padrinos. They know my stand on this issue… that as long as we are doing our jobs here, following the law, rules and guidelines, we should feel confident [in standing] up to padrinos,” Biazon said.

“We should not be pressured by external forces,” he added.

Cagayan de Oro district collector Lourdes Mangaoang said there was “no animosity” during the hourlong meeting, with some collectors even trying “to make jokes.”


‘Three Kings’

The so-called Three Kings, or the three major customs officials reportedly with powerful political backers, also attended the meeting.

Port of Manila district collector Rogel Gatchalian, reportedly backed by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile; Ninoy Aquino International Airport district collector Carlos So, reportedly supported by Iglesia ni Cristo; and Manila International Container Port collector Ricardo Belmonte, brother of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, expressed support for Biazon’s efforts to introduce reforms in the bureau.

“We support Commissioner Biazon and the President, including (Finance) Secretary (Cesar) Purisima,” Gatchalian said before begging off from making further comments.

So said he did not defy Biazon, referring to reports that he did not submit a letter of relinquishment.

“I sent a text message to [Biazon] and I explained to him that [he has] all my support, contrary to media reports. I recognize his leadership and I go along with him, with his plans to cleanse the leadership of misfits and scalawags,” So said.

He said Biazon could reorganize the bureau anytime as long as he had the go-signal of the secretary of finance.

“I will abide with the decision of the commissioner and his exercise of sound judgment and discretion,” So said.

Under 13 commissioners

When asked if a religious group was backing him, So said: “I don’t have a padrino. I am backed by my qualifications and experience. I’ve been here for 30 years.”

Belmonte said he never had any problem with power brokers in his 34 years in the bureau. He earlier said he would retire in February.

“Yesterday (Aug. 1) marked my 34th year in the service. I have been under 13 commissioners and I never had any problem with padrinos,” Belmonte said.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

“I have been ready [to be reassigned] for the past 34 years. You look at my record and you try to see if I questioned any reassignment,” he added.

TAGS: Carlos So, Ruffy Biazon

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

News that matters

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.