Customs chief resigns

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Saying a person “can only take so much,” embattled Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Ruffy Biazon yesterday tendered his irrevocable resignation.

“No position is worth sacrificing for the well being and peace of mind of my family,” he said. “A good name is more desirable than great riches.”

He quit just days after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed charges against him and 34 others in connection with the pork barrel scam.

“I resign in order to prevent exploitation of the controversy by parties who would like nothing better than to have an issue to throw against the Aquino administration,” he told reporters at a press conference in his office at the BOC.

Unlike his first offer to quit, which he texted to President Aquino after the latter lambasted the BOC in this year’s State of the Nation Address, Biazon announced his resignation yesterday on national television.

When asked if he considered himself a sacrificial lamb of the administration amid criticisms of political persecution in the pork barrel scam, Biazon replied, “If my case would serve to show that the Aquino administration does not consider party affiliation, so be it.”

Biazon told President Aquino of his decision to resign during a 40-minute meeting wherein the Chief Executive indirectly tried to convince him not to immediately resign.

“In the way the discussion was moving, I think he gave me space to think about it. But from the moment I sat down, I had already made up my mind,” Biazon said. “I’m at peace with my decision. I feel this is the right thing to do.”

The outgoing BOC chief said he and the President remained “OK” after the meeting. He was given a week to wind up his affairs in the bureau for a smooth transition.

Biazon, a former congressman of Muntinlupa and member of the ruling Liberal Party that Aquino heads, is among the 34 individuals charged last Friday over the pork barrel scam.

He was accused of receiving a kickback of P1.95 million for a project channeled through the bogus non-government organization of alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles in 2007.

Biazon is among seven former lawmakers in the second batch. The others were Salacnib Baterina of Ilocos Sur (P7.5 million), Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur (P9.3 million), Marc Douglas Cagas IV (P5.54 million), Arrel Olaño of Davao del Norte (P3.175 million), Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro (P2.41 million), and Arthur Pingoy of South Cotabato (P7.055 million). 

“I resign to protect my family, particularly my young children, from the exposure to the hostile environment from the public controversy involving their father. The intense discussion in media may be too much for them to endure. They are too young to understand, in the face of allegations like this, that anyone is deemed innocent until proven guilty in the court of law,” he said.

He added that his father, former senator and now Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, has served the country for 52 years with an untarnished record. “I would like to uphold the honor he earned for our name.”

The BOC chief, however, stressed that his decision to resign was not an admission of guilt as he vowed to clear his name on charges of malversation, direct bribery and graft and corrupt practices before the Office of the Ombudsman.

“I know I can defend myself properly when the time comes. I don’t think the media is the proper venue to address the issue,” he stressed.

Biazon only said he knew alleged pork barrel scam architect Napoles, but he never met any of the whistleblowers.

He admitted being surprised by the charges against him since in the days leading to the filing of the complaint there was no indication that he was going to be included.

Asked for a message to his critics, he said: “Those who are saying I am kapit-tuko (holding very tight) to my post, in your face!”

Lastly, he thanked the President for allowing him to serve as Customs chief, a task he said he took on because he “believed that it was a cause worth fighting for to break the generations-long kalakaran, to reverse the bad image of Customs and to propel it forward to a reformed and modernized customs service.”

“On this instance, for this particular sensitive post, I believe that even if the distrust comes from just a segment of the people, honor dictates that I give up the post and make way for a new leadership in the bureau,” he added.

Biazon believes the reforms he put in at the BOC and the imminent posting of record-high P300-billion collection of the bureau this year could be his biggest contributions to the agency.

Biazon, who was appointed September 2011, also offered to resign last July after the President castigated his agency during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) for its failure to curb smuggling and other illegal activities involving its personnel.

Aquino, however, rejected his resignation then and insisted that Biazon still enjoyed his trust.


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