Customs collectors reassigned in 2 weeks – Biazon

Natashya Gutierrez
Of the 17 district collectors, two has refused to relinquish their posts but will still be reassigned by Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon anyway

DRASTIC STEP. Embattled Customs commissioner Ruffy Biazon initiates reassignment of district collectors as part of the agency's reforms. Photo by Arcel Cometa/

MANILA, Philippines – After asking district collectors and sub-collectors to relinquish their posts, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said he would announce their new assignments in two weeks.

Biazon met with district collectors for the first time on Friday, August 2, since the order. Of the 17 district collectors, 16 were in attendance.

Two of the district collectors have refused to heed Biazon’s order, citing possible disruption of operations and the unnecessariness of tendering a resignation under the law. They are Port of Irene District Collector Julius Premediles in Cagayan and Ninoy Aquino International Airport District Collector Carlos So.

Biazon said he said he will assign a minimum of 3 district collectors, and vowed he will get the approval of the Department of Finance (DOF) for any changes he will implement.

He also clarified a reassignment does not mean the district collector had done anything wrong.

As for Premediles and So, the customs chief said he would reassign them anyway even if they failed to submit their letters of resignation.

“We will base [the new assignments] on the performance in the districts and the collections, and the reports we have received on how they have their done their jobs,” Biazon said.

READ: Customs, corruption: A hopeless case? 

In addition to the 17 district collectors, 37 sub-collectors were also asked to resign.

The reassignment is part of widespread reform efforts Biazon planned for the Bureau of Customs (BOC) after President Benigno Aquino III shamed the agency for its ineptness and corruption in his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Sources have told Rappler Aquino is giving Biazon one more chance to prove he can change the system, although senior advisers of the President have admitted they are considering tax chief Kim Henares as a possible replacement to Biazon.

Collector So is one of the alleged “three kings” of BOC along with Manila International Container Port District Collector Ricardo Belmonte and Port of Manila District Collector Rogel Gatchalian.

He is allegedly backed by the powerful Iglesia ni Cristo religious organization, while the other two reportedly have the support of powerful politicians.

The ports handled by the 3 are known to be among the richest collection districts.

No resignations

So, Belmonte, and Gatchalian were present at the meeting.

Belmonte, the brother of House Speaker and Aquino ally Sonny Belmonte Jr, denied having any backers, and said he has never questioned any reassignments in his 34 years with the agency. Gatchalian refused to talk to media.

READ: ‘Reveal Customs padrinos in Senate probe’

While So did not relinquish his port, he told media he assured Biazon of his support. So said his understanding of the law allowed Biazon to reassign him without his having to resign.

“It is clearly stated in Sec 703, [which] refers to the the reassignment of Customs officers and employees to other duties: it specifically provides that the Commissioner of Customs may, with the approval of the Secretary of Finance reassign any employee,” So said.

He also denied being backed by Iglesia ni Cristo, and argued his “qualifications and experience” are the reason he got the post.

Biazon confirmed Premediles, who also refused to relinquish his position, sent him a letter of support but did not resign as to avoid a disruption of his port’s activities.

The embattled chief said he would expect more from the district collectors after the reassignments, or face dismissal. He thanked the rest for submitting their letters, calling it “proof that you are united with our [reform] program.” –

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