PNoy: Customs needed a 'reset button'

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez,

Posted at Jul 28 2014 06:17 PM | Updated as of Jul 29 2014 02:17 AM

MANILA – A year after berating the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Aquino had nothing but praise for the agency in this year’s SONA.

Aquino highlighted the changes and reforms implemented in the BOC, which, he said, have regained the public’s trust in an agency marred by corruption.

“In the Bureau of Customs, which really tested our patience last year, it became clear that pressing the ‘reset button’ was the solution,” Aquino said in his speech on Monday.

The BOC entered 2014 with a new commissioner, John Sevilla, after former Commissioner Ruffy Biazon tendered his irrevocable resignation in December 2013 after he was implicated in the pork barrel scam.

“We formed new departments to investigate and make effective the processes at the BOC. We assigned a new commissioner, 6 new deputy commissioners, and 40 trusted individuals to implement reforms,” the President said.

He said these reforms resulted in a 22 percent increase in cash collections in the first four months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.

BOC posted total collections of P117 billion from January to April this year, Aquino noted.

“We proved that through principle and unity, we can clean up even an institution that, for the longest time, has been blemished with anomalies,” he said.

The President also warned those still involved in corruption that if they are proven guilty, their next designation will be in prison.

In his 2013 SONA, the President scolded erring officials of the BOC for allowing more than P200 billion in revenue slip through without going into public coffers.

“Where do these people get the gall?” he said.

After Aquino's speech last year, then-commissioner Biazon immediately filed his resignation, but it was not accepted by the President, who said that his confidence in Biazon “remains the same."

However, Biazon, a former congressman of Muntinlupa, was dragged into the pork barrel scandal in late 2013, prompting him to file his irrevocable resignation, while maintaining his innocence.