Jul 232013
(Updated 3:17 p.m.) Malacañang on Tuesday defended President Benigno Aquino III’s decision not to accept Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon’s resignation despite the President’s negative comments about the bureau on his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“As Commissioner Biazon had already shared on his Twitter account yesterday, the President’s response that the confidence remains, as both gentlemen know the challenges and as well as the limitations that are being faced by… Biazon in the Bureau of Customs, and that the confidence in the commissioner remains,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said at a press briefing.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) was one of the three government agencies scolded by Aquino during his fourth SONA for supposed mediocre work. The others were the Bureau of Immigration and the National Irrigation Administration.

Right after the SONA, Biazon, on his Twitter account, said he offered his resignation to Aquino but that the President said his confidence in him “remains the same.”

The heads of the other agencies that were publicly berated by the President had either resigned or had not been reappointed.

Biazon, for his part, said he will stay with the BOC as long as Aquino’s confidence in his remains.

“Kung nandiyan pa ang kumpyansa ng pangulo, mananatili tayo,” he said in an interview on GMA News TV’s “News To Go” on Tuesday.

Sacrificial lamb

But he also expressed ambivalence, noting that he is thinking if keeping the post “is all worth it.”

“Pinag-iisipan ko rin if this is all worth it kasi ang nangyayari, ang palaging nagiging ‘sacrificial lamb’ is the commissioner himself, although sabi nga, command responsibility,” he said.

He also said a change in leadership is not enough to address the alleged systemic corruption in the bureau.

“Nagpapalit-palit na tayo ng commissioner ilang beses pero ‘yung tinatawag na kalakaran naririyan pa rin, pasa-pasa lang din… Hanggang kailan natin hahayaan na ‘yung ganyang klase ng kalakaran ay magpatuloy?” Biazon said.

He added that everyone in the bureau is tasked to reform the agency, and not just the commissioner.

“Ang naiisip nga lang natin, matanggal lang ang commissioner, okay na. Kasi nakakaligtas ‘yung makakapal ang mukha na nanatili sa puwesto nang matagal. So, siguro ‘yung reporma kailangan talaga malawakan na tingnan natin ang responsibilidad hindi lamang ang commissioner. Hanggang down the line talaga,” Biazon said.

Special case

Valte said Biazon is a special case because of the state of the BOC. “Katulad ‘nung sinabi nga niya kay Commissioner Biazon, naiintindihan po ng Pangulo ‘yung mga hinaharap doon, ‘yung mga repormang kailangang gawin, given his mandate,” she said.

“Nag-iisang tao lang din po siya (Biazon) at, given that the problem in Customs is not simple—the corruption is entrenched, nagiging endemic, nagiging systemic na po doon—ito po ‘yung mga pagkakataong kailangang ibigay para naman ho magawa ‘nung tao ‘yung kanyang mandato,” she added.

Valte said Biazon is already implementing measures within the BOC but that he was not “at liberty to discuss” them.
“Alam na rin po ‘yon ni Commissioner Biazon kung ano ‘yung the next—kung ano ‘yung mga susunod na hakbang na dapat pong gawin at, kung napakinggan po natin ‘yung sinabi ng Pangulo kanina, it is properly categorized as this is the shot across the bow already,” she said.

Biazon is the son of former senator and incumbent Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, a retired Marine official who was appointed military chief during the term of Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

Missed targets

Noting the endemic corruption in the bureau, Biazon once called for the abolition of the BOC so it could “start from scratch.” But faced with criticism on his radical proposition, he said he would instead implement a “major reshuffle” to improve collections.

The BOC had missed its collection target for 2012 by P60 billion—it had set its target at P347 billion but collected only P287 billion.

The BOC has set P397 billion target for 2013, with over P121.7 billion collected as of May, still short of its midyear target. — with Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK, GMA News

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