‘Leadership quake’ continues in Customs

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing Customs commissioner Angelito Alvarez follows a long line of bureau chiefs to occupy the post for a short time. Since 1998, the Bureau of Customs has suffered from an extensive leadership turnover, with many commissioners serving for only one year, and some even just months. 

Former Customs Commissioner Guillermo Parayno Jr., who headed the agency during the entire term of former President Fidel V. Ramos (1992 to 1998), calls the problem a “leadership killer quake.” Parayno was the longest-serving customs chief in recent history. 

“That is really the problem with our political system when every change in administration, you bring your own set of people there. Almost indiscriminately, whether they are performing well or they’re not performing, they’re out.”

Parayno said the leadership quake is major hindrance to changing the BOC. During his term, he started reform programs and an IT system for customs processing but he said these were not sustained. 

“I remember in my case, I was changed but many other people who were part of the reform process were also changed or moved to other work so the leadership of the reform process was basically decimated.”

While there is a need to evaluate Customs officials, Parayno said leaders must ensure that honest and competent employees are retained. Assessing the BOC personnel is one of the challenges awaiting new Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon. It also remains to be seen whether or not Biazon will break the trend of short-serving Customs chiefs. 

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