MANILA, Philippines - Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon on Wednesday said he will respect the decision of the Manila regional trial court that issued a temporary restraining order stopping the transfer of several customs collectors to the Customs Policy Research Office (CPRO).
But Biazon insisted the order will be implemented once the 72-hour TRO lapses, although he expects the affected parties to file for an extension.
Despite the TRO, Biazon said the reforms at the bureau and the policy of reshuffling officials to ensure reforms will push through.
He said affected officials must also consider public perception referring to insinuations that there is "something" in those positions that they don't want to let go.
Biazon also clarified the customs policy research office is not a "freezer" since the supposed expertise of these affected personnel will be used in crafting policies that will improve Customs operation.
According to Biazon, some of the affected personnel have already reported to that office and despite the TRO, he will not prevent them from doing their new assignment.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for the 15 customs collectors, who were earlier reassigned but got a TRO from the Manila RTC, said his clients are not clinging to their positions.
Atty. Ramon Esguerra said his clients have basis under the law in asserting that the order to transfer them is against the law.
Esguerra said the BOC's order is illegal in many fronts - first, under the tariff and customs code, personnel can only be transferred within customs bureau. He noted the new CPRO is under the Department of Finance.
Second, Esguerra said the CPRO was not yet existing when the transfer order was made, since the order creating it took effect on October 2.
The lawyer said it is not even clear if the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already set aside a budget for the office.
Third, Esguerra said the COMELEC ban on transfers is already in effect so any transfer is not allowed. He insisted his clients have security of tenure and must not be put in "floating status in a non-existent office".
When asked if his clients are not "kapit tuko" for clinging to their post despite an order, Esguerra said this is unfair since they have all the legal rights to fight for their rights.
Esguerra added his clients have heeded earlier directive for them to return to their mother units so the accusation that they're clinging to their post wouldn't stick.
"Di pwedeng sinampal sampal ka na tapos susunod ka lang, uupo ka lang, at may violation sa iyong karapatan, sumunod naman sana sa tama," he said.
Esguerra said a judge in the Manila RTC will decide whether or not to extend the 72-hour TRO.