It is more than command responsibility. When P-Noy blasted Customs officials during his SONA for failure to reform, he couldn’t go all the way. He had to reject the resignation offer of his Customs Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners. The explanation of the Palace spokesmen: they were not the officials P-Noy was alluding to.
P-Noy couldn’t, in conscience, have fired Ruffy Biazon and Danny Lim simply because he has not acted on Biazon’s proposals for reform. I know of at least two proposals submitted to P-Noy by Biazon that are gathering dust.
I had a long conversation with Biazon about October last year and he gave me a good perspective of the problems he is confronting everyday at Customs. He thinks the Customs Code ought to be modernized. That will take time, as we can expect vested interests calling on their allies in Congress to look out for them.
Still, the claim of Biazon that the Customs Code is antiquated is probably true. As I reported in a column last year, Biazon told me the law was passed in 1957. But how come P-Noy did not certify the passage of a reformed Customs Code in his SONA?
There are two other major changes Biazon told me last year he wanted to implement to cut down opportunities for corruption. One of those is mandating the universal pre-inspection of all cargo bound for the Philippines in ports of origin. The other is the GPS tagging of all containers so as to avoid the loss of thousands of containers while in transit from port to a bonded warehouse or another port.
The last excuse given to me by Sec Purisima about inaction on the Biazon proposals is the objection of PEZA’s Lilia de Lima. Because everyone knows how straight and narrow is the path walked upon by Ms. De Lima, one wonders why.
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I wrote Ms. De Lima and asked her why she is objecting to the GPS tagging of containers. After all, I have also been told that they have caught some smugglers using PEZA addressed containers for their purposes. She said she was worried about additional costs.
“We raised some possible concerns of PEZA zone locators, one of which is the added costs. For a locator who ships 10 containers a day, easily that’s P15,000 daily. There is a need to review the cost aspect. We suggested that BOC make another presentation to them, perhaps in two or three batches starting later this week. This will allow BOC and the GSP service provider to explain this new system to the PEZA zone locators.”
That communication with Ms. De Lima was last February. I assume all have been ironed out by now.
I asked Biazon again the other day via Twitter the status of these two proposals. His reply: “Pending with the DOF sir. Initially we were proposing an Administrative Order to amend the existing one… under study by DOF.
“Later on, in the quest for a quicker mode of implementation, we proposed a Customs Administrative Order, instead of an AO by the President Proposal is pending at DOF, together with the GPS tracking of container vans.
“May I add that these proposals were made just months after I got into office. I’m almost two years now in the post.”
See what I mean? P-Noy and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima share the blame. A leader does not send out a general to the battlefield and fail to act on the general’s recommendation so he can do effective battle.
It is entirely possible that even if P-Noy and Purisima agreed to the Biazon proposals, Biazon would still fail to deliver. But that’s speculation. Now we know he was not given the proper support.
No wonder even the brave General Danny Lim lost his balls and refuses to substantiate his own allegations of powerful forces interfering at Customs. When they can see that their Commander-in-chief is wavering by failing to give them what they need, they will understandably hesitate to go out there and be slaughtered.
Actually, this public expression of uncharacteristic cowardice of General Lim is bad for Daang Matuwid. It says without words that the powerful forces are closely entrenched with P-Noy himself or those very close to him.
The next move is for P-Noy to prove all skeptics wrong. P-Noy must come out with a big gesture to show it is all out war on corruption at Customs.
BBC’s Asia Business Report has been taking a look at the Philippines as part of a special series. Here’s the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/
BBC’s Sharanjit Leyl asked Rajat Nag, managing director at the Asian Development Bank, what he thought the future holds for our country. He thought we had a promising future but expressed worry over our failure to develop the manufacturing sector. He said we need manufacturing to provide jobs for a more inclusive growth.
He was generally hopeful and appreciative of Daang Matuwid. But he did suggest that everything depends on what kind of leadership P-Noy shows in the next three years.
A foreign resident who has lived here for years, sent me his own reaction to the interview.
“Mr Nag partly hit the nail on the head referring to the need for a ‘manufacturing’ leg. There is relatively little manufacturing here. They don’t even make a moped. If you buy a pedestal fan it will have been made in China.
“If you meet a rich Filipino and he says he is a ‘businessman’ it will be that he owns a school, or a cemetery, or property. Almost all the rich Filipinos I have met make their money squeezing their fellow countrymen.
“Without overseas workers sending billions back, this place would sink. There are still masses of poor and unemployed and the rich don’t give a damn. A pal texted me from Manila earlier today saying he had moved 100 yards in 40 minutes on the main Manila thoroughfare through the city. That is not unusual.
“The infrastructure is hopeless. The light rail through Manila, during rush hour is impossible to get on except at the first station. Even there it is like a football crowd fighting to get a place.
“I had an electric coil for my motorbike sent from UK on 19th April. It arrived in Manila 22nd April. I got it ten weeks later. I even went to the Manila central post office to try to get it but no Customs staff was on duty that day.
“How could a businessman work like that with, for example, a need for a part for a vital machine? At the post office there was a Filipina crying, trying to get some medication that had been sent from overseas and had been six weeks in the post office.
“A few years ago, a C grade American starlet was making a movie in Manila. Interviewed, she said that Manila was ‘knee deep in garbage and had beggars at every traffic light’ – not far from the truth. The President at the time, Estrada, said he would deport her unless she retracted and apologized, which she had to do to finish the movie.
“Long way to go. That Indian guy obviously had to be very careful about what he said.”
It’s a shame
Rodney Diola, one of the better reporters we had at the Manila Chronicle, had been working abroad since the mid 90s. He posted this comment on Facebook in reaction to a column of Amy Pamintuan I posted.
It’s a shame how the country is being left behind given the extent of corruption among Filipino politicians. I just visited the second tier province of Hunan which has superb infrastructures that beggars Manila. Their airport is ten times better than Manila and 100 times better than Cebu.
The province also provides cheap train service. All those stolen money used by Filipino politicians could have been used to provide great infra for the country.
Jail those pork barrel scammers please!. The airport in Burma in Mandalay is similar to what we have in Manila. I’m so sick.
You have only 2 things to worry about:
You’re either rich or poor.
If you’re rich, you have nothing to worry about.
If you’re poor, you have 2 things to worry about:
whether you’re in good health or bad.
If you’re in good health, you have nothing to worry about.
If you’re in bad health you may die.
If you die you have nothing to worry about. You’re either going to Heaven, or the other place.
If you go to Heaven, you have nothing to worry about.
If you go to the other place, you’ll be busy greeting old friends and you won’t have time to worry.
Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco