MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Francis Escudero slammed yesterday the alleged midnight appointments made by President Arroyo in the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
Escudero reminded the outgoing administration that the two chambers of Congress have not approved a bill seeking a fixed term for the chairman and directors of Pagcor.
Therefore, Escudero said any midnight appointments by Mrs. Arroyo are subject for review in the next Congress and by the next administration.
Escudero also reminded the chief executive of the recent Supreme Court decision, which bars the President from appointing any official within two months before she finishes her term.
Ready to go
In a related development, Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales has packed his bags and is ready to go, even with more than a month before the end of the Arroyo administration.
Reporters covering the Bureau of Customs were surprised to see the commissioner’s office almost empty.
The books, plaques and pictures that once filled Morales’ side table and bookshelf have been removed and only a few pieces of furniture and closed-circuit television monitors were left in his room.
The commissioner’s desk that was usually piled high with documents for review and signing is almost clean, except for one stack of papers.
Morales, who has been commissioner for four years and five months, said, “I am just preparing the office for the next commissioner. I don’t want to rush my moving out. When I came here, the commissioner’s office was empty, so I am leaving it the way I found it. I never made any changes in the room, except for the overhead lights of the sofa, because I knew that this office is not mine to keep.”
Morales has started taking out his things two weeks ago.
“I serve at the pleasure of the President and this is also a way of showing respect to the incoming president who would choose the next commissioner. I would just wait for my replacement,” he said.
“Of all the agencies of the government, the most tedious job is that of the Customs commissioner. So whoever will replace me, I will only say good luck and he should be prepared for criticisms and the performance (expected of him). He should also be physically and mentally fit,” he added.
And when he finally turns over the bureau to the new commissioner, perhaps by July, Morales would be presenting at least four months of positive revenue collection.
From January to April this year, the agency exceeded its target collection by P5 billion.
Compared to last year, when their collection was affected by the global recession, Morales said, “We have a good economy now - volume is going up, value is going up so it’s a good start for the new administration. The way I look at it, it’s now the end of the recession.”
He would also brief the new Customs chief on the bureau’s accomplishments in the campaign against smuggling. The fact that they were able to surpass their target is an indication that there is a continuous effort to address the smuggling problem, he said.
He added that the formula that he has been using during the past few years has been effective in accomplishing the tasks given to them.
“We have already prepared the blueprint... He (successor) just needs to continue what I started,” Morales said.
Morales has been working for the BOC for 42 years. “I have no business that is why if the next administration replaces me, I will be jobless. Definitely, I would not put up a brokerage firm even if I’m a registered customs broker. I would have to look for a job outside Customs,” he said.
Morales joined the agency in 1968 as an office messenger and rose from the ranks. He held the post of Customs examiner, principal examiner, appraiser and principal appraiser, positions that involved the examination, valuation and classification of imported goods that are the basis of payment of duties and taxes.
For 12 years, Morales also served in the Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) ad hoc appeals committee that handled protest cases against the SGS-Clean Report of Findings that dealt with valuation and tariff classification.
In 2001, Morales was appointed district collector of the Port of Batangas and was promoted the following year as district collector of Manila.
He was reassigned to the Port of Batangas in 2004. During his three terms as district collector of the two major ports, Morales was consistently awarded as the most outstanding district collector, in recognition of his excellent performance in revenue generation.
Under Morales’ stewardship, the ports of Manila and Batangas realized an accumulated collection surplus of over P7 billion versus their target.
In January 2006, he was appointed as acting Customs commissioner, and was appointed head of the Task Force on Anti-Smuggling.
Then on May 5 of the same year, he became the full-pledged commissioner.
Willing to serve
Outgoing Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, meantime, said she is making herself available for president-apparent Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III should his administration need her services.
“I am ready to serve the (Aquino administration) in whatever capacity that I am qualified for,” Padaca said in a press conference held at the governor’s guesthouse days after her defeat in the elections.
A party-mate of Aquino, Padaca, 46, lost to administration bet Rep. Faustino Dy III by a narrow margin - 274,557 votes to 271,319 - derailing what could have been her third and final term as governor of the country’s third largest province.
She, however, filed a petition before the Commission on Elections seeking the nullification of Dy’s proclamation due to his alleged involvement in massive vote-buying, electronic vote-shaving and other election irregularities, which the governor-elect vehemently denied.
But Padaca, a 2008 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, said she will not pressure Aquino for a job.
“Let’s give him a free hand to decide on what’s best for the national interest,” she said.
At least 789 officers and members of the Samahang Manggagawa ng Paliparan ng Pilipinas (SMPP) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) appealed to Aquino to let current Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Melvin Matibag continue serving the agency.
The SMPP is a registered public sector labor union composed of regular and casual employees of the MIAA.
Roy Quismario, president of SMPP, said Matibag’s short stint since March has proven that there are still good people in government.
“He has shown care and reverence to airport workers through his policies and decisions,” Quismario said.
Matibag, for his part, said he would submit his courtesy resignation on June 30. He thanked the MIAA employees for their support and cooperation. - Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan, Charlie Lagasca and Rudy Santos