Customs revamp

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013


WITHIN days after the President publicly chastised the Bureau of Customs as among the most corrupt agencies in government, two deputy commissioners and at least a dozen collectors assigned to major ports have submitted their courtesy resignations. Edward de la Cuessta of the Cebu Port is one of them.

A courtesy resignation is meant to give the appointing authority a freer hand in reorganizing the bureau. It should not be taken as an admission of guilt.

It was during de la Cuesta’s watch that some 600,000 sacks of rice loaded in more than a thousand container vans originating from Vietnam, were intercepted at the Cebu port.

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Unfortunately, it was also under de la Cuesta that the bureau lost a number of sacks of the smuggled commodity to pilferage.

Not his fault, it seems. De la Cuesta, I was told, has been pressing his superiors to authorize early disposal of the rice after the importers failed to show up and claim the shipment within the period fixed by law. The head office, however, dallied, ignoring the fact that rice was at risk to thievery as well as to its perishable nature.

Commissioner Ruffy Biazon has since given his assent to the sale at public auction but not after some 272 bags were confirmed stolen. What worries me is how much of the shipment may have been damaged by pests and exposure to the elements. Imagine how enormous the losses in sure government revenues will be if a large portion of the shipment has been rendered unfit for human consumption.

Biazon has made broad hints of a major revamp in the bureau to signal the sweeping
reforms that he now feels he is empowered to implement after the President rejected his courtesy resignation. De la Cuesta would probably like to be retained in Cebu; he hasn’t been shy about reminding people that he has met his collection targets here.

But like the sale of the smuggled rice, his place of assignment is not his call but Biazon’s. The most that he could do is hope that the commissioner will act with more dispatch this time.

***

President Manny Pacquiao? Relax, guys. The earliest that it could happen is in 2022.

Manny is only 34 and would therefore be ineligible to run for President in 2016 because the Constitution provides that the President must be at least 40 years of age on the day of the election. The other qualifications are: being a natural born citizen, a registered voter, able to read and write and a resident of the Philippines at least 10 years before the election.

I can’t blame Manny for dreaming of the presidency. First of all, he has the money to fund a national campaign. And he earned it honestly. While others accumulated wealth from the pork barrel, Manny risked his life in the ring to amass his.

Secondly, Manny is immensely popular. He has no problem with name recall because his name is a byword in all households. We’re not sure, though, if his popularity will be the same 10 years from now especially if he continues losing or hangs up his gloves.

The only question is whether he is prepared for the Presidency. Although the
Constitution says that it is enough that the President should be able to read and write, the reality is that he must be able to do more in order to govern effectively.

As President, Pacquiao can no longer rely on his fists to do the talking and he will no longer be dealing with the Bob Arums and the Freddie Roaches of the world, discussing only jabs, hooks and straights. Running the country as President is an entirely different world requiring an entirely different set of skills.

But I’m not writing the man off. He might just surprise us all in 2022 by showing up, an entirely different man from the one whom we have come to associate with “you know.”

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 30, 2013.

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