Whys of the Customs revamp-A A +A
Sunday, February 3, 2013
THE Customs grapevine, because nobody wants to talk openly, is awash with talk on why performing regional collectors were being transferred while those who were not able to hit their collection targets are staying in their posts.
Perhaps the reason is politics. It is, after all, election season and the ports are rich sources of campaign funds. Could this be the reason why the brother of the House Speaker was not affected? Or we could also trace the reason to strong backers like a powerful religious sect.
The Cebu port, for instance, had been fortunate under the helm of District Collector Ronnie Silvestre who consistently hit his collection targets through the years. He was also able to thwart several smuggling attempts. But why is he being transferred to Clark International Airport? Walang backer sa ruling party, sirs?
What amused me was the delay in the execution of the revamp order in Cebu. Apparently, the powers that be in Manila forgot that Collector Silvestre is responsible for their national anniversary celebration to be held this week at the majestic Customs building that was converted into Malacanang sa Sugbo.
The customs x-ray project likewise scored crucial victories against smuggling like the foiled sugar smuggling late last year. But why transfer the project’s chief Atty. Des Mangaoang?
Hmmm. Top customs and finance officials will be here for the anniversary. I hope their answers will satisfy members of the Cebu media.
Talks of electoral reforms often focus on limiting the ability of politicians to avail themselves of the mass media in their campaigns. I am not saying this is wrong. What I find wrong is: the so-called reforms are not addressing rampant vote-buying at the grassroots.
When politicians talk of the ability to win, crucial to this is the ability to wage a protracted campaign with still enough millions for the end game.
No, I don’t mean the money for the allowances and meals of watchers and canvassers though an unusually number of canvassers should be suspect.
The end game refers to the use of the cabo system to deliver bribe money to individual voters. At the provincial level, millions of pesos are delivered to mayors several days before the elections to ensure that the correct sample ballots are distributed to the community leaders below.
In the vote-buying game, issues debated in the mass media won’t matter. It is another form of warfare guided by surveys (and in since the turn of the century computerized GIS programs and voter databases).
I find it amusing, for instance, that leaders of opposing political camps in Cebu City exchange stories even years after an election like the classic battle between then Mayor Alvin Garcia and private citizen Tommy Osmena in 2001. While Alvin prefers to complain in the mass media about the alleged bias of the Comelec, some drinking sessions at Rajah Park and elsewhere among political operators talk of how Alvin lost because he thought vote-buying could not erase his lead as shown in the surveys. By not releasing endgame money, Alvin’s leaders were easy prey for cabos from the other side.
Several studies and books looked into how patronage systems developed since the time of Don Sergio Osmeña and Manuel L. Quezon and interrelationship with pork barrel money from the barangay up to the Senate level and the Palace.
If electoral reforms strike hard at curbing vote-buying nationwide, it would drive a stake into the heart of the trapo system that we all had been advocating but would ignore come election time. I took time to write about this after reading news that the Cebu Archdiocese through the Office of the Archbishop, in partnership with Comelec 7 and DepED 7, will launch a summit to explore concrete actions in addressing election issues in Cebu.
I gathered that the “Summit on Credible Cebu Elections 2013: Addressing the Most Challenging Election Issues” will be on Feb. 23, 2013, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Cebu Mariners’ Court, Pier 1, Cebu City. Around 1,000 individuals are expected to participate in the Summit, namely: Comelec election officers, DepED supervisors, Cebu clergy, NGOs/POs representatives, universities and colleges representatives (administrators/faculty), Youth leaders, PNP (regio, province, City) directors, representatives from media, political parties, LGUs, business, and religious/faith-based communities/councils.
Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma signed the invitation that he sent to different groups including, I was told, local candidates. He said the Summit will “endeavor to forge maximum unity in embracing electoral advocacy and in implementing the needed concrete strategies for electoral reforms.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 04, 2013.