Kings and padrinos
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
When President Aquino singled out the Bureau of Customs for failing to collect more than P200 billion because of smuggling in his State of the Nation Address on July 22, and then refused to accept the resignation that Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon tendered almost immediately after the SONA, he probably had an idea what would happen next.
He knew that Biazon, whose stint with the bureau has been unremarkable thus far, would be forced to save face and take drastic action. Biazon has complained that past efforts to curb shenanigans in the bureau have been for naught, because those who refuse to cooperate have relied on the padrino system to stymie the implementation of reforms. Biazon and his deputy commissioner, Danilo Lim, brought up nothing new when they hinted that influential personalities, who include senators, congressmen, and relatives of high officials, have been interfering in the agency’s business and their reluctance to name names gives us an idea of just how powerful those meddling padrinos could be.
Commissioner Biazon has directed all district and subport collectors to submit letters relinquishing their posts. This include the so-called “Three Kings” which include Ricardo Belmonte, brother of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., district collector Carlos So of The Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and Port of Manila district collector Rogel Gatchalian who is allegedly backed by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. So, who is said to have the support of the politically influential Iglesia ni Cristo, is the only one among the three that has not yet submitted his letter signifying his intention to relinquish his post.
Senator Francis Escudero, chair of the Senate finance committee, has filed a resolution directing three powerful committees to investigate the padrino system in the BOC, the second biggest revenue earner in government and long perceived to be the most corrupt government agency. While the resolution has garnered support among senators, there are those who doubt if another Senate probe can actually produce results.
The padrino system has been so entrenched in our culture, ruining our government and even private institutions for decades, that we no longer see such backward behavior as disgusting. Maybe that is how the helpless Ruffy Biazon saw it in his first few years as Customs Commissioner. Now that what must be done has become clear, will he have what it takes to go after the kings and expose their padrinos, and will the heads of other similarly-situated government agencies do the same?*