Ruffy Biazon resigns as Customs chief

ALLIES. Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon tenders his irrevocable resignation to President Benigno Aquino III during a meeting on Monday, December 2. Photo from Biazon's Twitter account

ALLIES. Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon tenders his irrevocable resignation to President Benigno Aquino III during a meeting on Monday, December 2.

Photo from Biazon's Twitter account

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon resigned on Monday, December 2, three days after the justice department implicated him in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.

Biazon announced his "irrevocable resignation" in a press conference Monday afternoon and after a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III.

“I resign in order to prevent the exploitation of the controversy by parties who would like nothing better than to have an issue to throw against the Aquino administration. Being a presidential appointee to a sensitive post, critics will surely have a field day taking potshots at the President if I stay in the post," he explained.

He added, "My resignation has nothing to do with admission of guilt. I know I can defend myself properly when the time comes." He added: "This resignation is all about… protecting the President from issues that will be thrown against him if I stay, protecting my family from undue stress, and preventing those who would want to exploit this issue for whatever gains they want here in the bureau."

He said he wrote his resignation letter Friday night, the evening the complaint was filed against him by the Department of Justice (DOJ) before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Biazon said Aquino expected his resignation. “It is a decision that I am at peace with,” Biazon added.

Biazon, a member of the ruling Liberal Party and former Muntinlupa congressman, is the first party mate of Aquino to be implicated in the pork barrel scam. The former Muntinlupa congressman is accused of pocketing P1.95 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during his 2007-2010 term. But Biazon maintained he "did not receive any money from the whistleblowers."

The scam, which has angered millions of Filipinos who have demanded reform, involves lawmakers endorsing PDAF to bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in exchange for hefty kickbacks. 

'New leadership'

Last July, Biazon offered to resign after the President lambasted the Bureau of Customs' alleged incompetence and corruption in his 4th State of the Nation Address. Aquino did not accept his resignation then, and kept him in the bureau to institute reforms.

Biazon said he was again resigning to "give way to new leadership," whose credibility will not be questioned.

“I would rather see the reforms of this administration succeed than retain my opportunity to serve,” he said. 

Malacañang issued a statement from the President on Biazon's resignation immediately after the meeting. 

In the statement, Aquino accepted Biazon's resignation and said Biazon told him "it would be best to provide the Secretary of Finance the widest leverage and flexibility to steer the future direction of the Bureau of Customs."

He also thanked Biazon "for his years of service to our administration and the nation." He added, "I wish him nothing but the best as he returns to private life."

Biazon is a son of incumbent Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon, a former senator and retired Armed Forces chief of staff who once earned the monicker "Cory general." As commander of military troops based in the National Capital Region during the troubled years of the late President Corazon Aquino, Biazon defended her government in various coup attempts, including the December 1989 mutiny that came close to toppling her.

Mrs Aquino named Biazon Armed Forces chief of staff after the December 1989 coup. That coup was led by, among others, a young Army captain then - now retired general Danilo Lim, who served as the younger Biazon's deputy at the customs bureau until he quit in August.

"My own father served this country with untarnished service," the younger Biazon said. "My position is worth sacrificing."

The older Biazon also supported his son's resignation.

"In one way, I am happy for the former commissioner because he had been relieved of the pressure of the job; because the pressure started bearing on him on day one because there were entities who would like to have the job. And these entities had started to work to get him out of there," he said, without mentioning any names.

One-week transition

Biazon said he asked the President for a one-week transition, "just to finish what is pending here in my office." Aquino said in his statement he is giving Biazon until the end of the week "to ensure an orderly transfer."

Biazon also offered advice to the next Customs chief that will replace him. "Watch your back," he said. 

Biazon also took the opportunity to defend himself and proclaim his innocence. He said he is "willing to face the allegation in the proper forum."

He admitted to having met Napoles, but only because she is "a wife of a marine officer who participated in a coup my father participated in." He added, "the marine community is a small community."

Biazon said he did not want to cast any doubt on the justice department's credibility, but expressed confidence he would be able to prove he is not guilty of the allegations thrown against him.

His father also said the family was "surprised" when they heard about the charges against his son. 

"Initially he was taken aback, he was surprised that he was included. Eventually we are convinced that what we need to do, is to prepare for his day in court, if it reaches the court," he said. Rappler.com