Yolanda and Ruffy Biazon
If Bureau of Customs Commissioner Rufino Ruffy Biazon is closely monitoring messages from Malacañang churned out on a regular basis via press briefings and broadcast interviews, I believe he is finalizing his letter of resignation or perhaps it could well be ready by the time he meets President Benigno Aquino III any time soon.
As we know, Biazon and 33 other people have been charged in the Office of the Ombudsman with malversation, direct bribery and graft for alleged involvement in the P10 billion pork barrel scam.
Also included in the cases filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are Energy Regulatory Commission chair Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, Janet Lim Napoles, 26 other personalities and several former members of the House of Representatives.
Although DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima has not asserted her stance on whether or not Biazon should stay at his post while the case is pending, I think the timing of the case, coming as it does while flak continues to rain on the Aquino administration owing to the sloppy relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name, Haiyan), has put unwitting pressure on Commissioner Biazon to ultimately resign his post.
The filing of the second batch of cases against former and current lawmakers involved in the pork barrel scam is supposed to address suspicion that the administration’s daang matuwid (righteous path) campaign is merely a ploy to intimidate the political opposition. Indeed, the graft cases headlined by Biazon is quite a bombshell that momentarily distracted public attention from issues related to the continuing relief and recovery of millions of people living in areas battered by the supertyphoon.
It will take time for people to draw attention away from Yolanda, although these past few days the triumph of world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao over American Brandon Rios also made headlines. The “shelf” life of such news does not last very long, but Pacquiao managed to keep us watching because of his battle with the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Also creeping into our daily conversations are personal experiences and stories of compassion, like Cebu Daily News’ (CDN) running story on Rizza Flores, the 11-year-old girl from Burauen, Leyte who was badly injured when the wooden beam of their home fell on her body at the height of the supertyphoon.
It is a miracle that Rizza survived the super calamity but the chain of events that brought her to a hospital in Tacloban City where she was spotted by international medics and who made it possible for her emergency evacuation to Cebu, where she eventually went under the knife for a thigh bone operation is the bigger miracle.
Chong Hua Hospital would have considered Rizza a charity case but I heard the documentation process could have delayed the operation. In the end, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the principal media company of Cebu Daily News shouldered Rizza’s operation and post-operation needs.
Rizza is now undergoing therapy and is on the road to recovery but she misses her family in Burauen. She is under the watchful care of staffers in this paper who alternately take care of her needs and keep her company if their busy schedule permits.
A friend I know who has practically no knowledge of how it is to take care of a child, let alone handle a child’s emotions and physical pain, may be thinking, “So this is how it is to be a surrogate parent!”
The story is still evolving, but I know the girl from Leyte has touched so many people’s lives and changed their priorities. These everyday heroes may be wondering why they’re not the same person after Yolanda.
Yolanda has the same effect on Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, albeit in a different circumstance.
It may be recalled the BOC chief made headlines when President Noynoy Aquino singled out the Customs Bureau in his 2013 State of the Nation Address (Sona). After P-Noy flogged the bureau for rampant corruption, Biazon offered to resign but the President decided to keep him on.
Nowadays, Biazon is in the front pages over an issue that is removed from his management of the BOC and from the looks of it, the Customs chief may be running out of luck.
I got this sense after reading a news report extracted from a radio interview over the weekend with Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma who volunteered the information that P-Noy summoned Biazon to Malacañang. The meeting is expected to happen this week.
Coloma then said that the graft case has “changed the context” of the President’s relationship with Biazon. I think this is in reference, not to P-Noy’s perceived leniency over Biazon’s performance in the BOC, but to the mountain of work that P-Noy needs to accomplish with respect to the huge reconstruction of typhoon-ravaged areas.
Take note that the President was severely criticized by international media for sloppy relief and rehabilitation work and the negative feedback as far as I know has not abated.
Coloma’s hints are not necessary for Biazon to second-guess the President, but if the customs chief has any sense of delicadeza or at least sympathy for the administration, he should immediately tender his irrevocable resignation and spare Malacañang from more troubles.
Tomorrow, CDN publisher Eileen G. Mangubat will give a lecture on “Journalism in the time of Yolanda: The emerging role of Media in Covering Disasters” at the Marcelo Fernan Cebu Press Center. Organized by the Cebu Association of Mass Communication Educators led by former CDN colleague Nestor Ramirez of the University of San Jose-Recoletos, the timely forum serves as my colleague’s opening salvo to a two-week study and lecture tour that will take her to at least four cities in northern America, all part of her exposure being accorded world recognition in the field of journalism.
I have no intention of breaching protocol, so let’s wait until tomorrow for the Canadian Embassy to announce the good news. I can only say that the award is so well-deserved, a great honor for Cebu media and a crowning glory for the Inquirer affiliate in Cebu.
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