Backlash of DOF return-to-mother-unit order for Customs officials

By Jorge B. Osit

MANILA, (PNA) — No matter how you slice it, the recent Department of Finance (DOF) directive ordering all Customs officials and personnel back to their mother units has shaken up the whole bureau, disrupting as a result its day-to-day operations and, alarmingly, hampering target collections.

In effect, the overall scenario all boils down to an operational paralysis now afflicting the country’s second highest revenue generating agency, a situation where almost no Customs officials like port collectors are willing to sign papers pending their return to their mother units.

Here, at a glance but without naming names, will give one an idea on how confused and unwieldy the situation has become.

Consider: A premier port collector is all set to move on to his mother unit, but the port collector at the Visayan city, in turn, cannot go back to his mother unit because the port collector assigned to an international airport refuses to budge, even allegedly flaunting appointment papers signed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

So, essentially, if this situation is replicated nationwide it becomes clear that they are all stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire and it can get messier if not immediately resolved.

Even Customs insiders have expressed fears that the back to mother unit directive could constitute a wrong move in the bureau’s drive against smuggling and illicit activities.

“The order,” a Customs observer pointed out, “will allow personnel who have been placed on floating status due to their alleged involvement in irregularities to go back to their old posts.”

The same directive also revoked all designations of top Customs officials, including rank-and-file employees, and directed them to return to their permanent plantilla positions and original/permanent units as indicated in their appointment papers.

In a bid to show opposition to the said directive, the members of the militant and 3,000-strong Bureau of Customs Employees Association (BOCEA), headed by its national president Romulo Pagulayan, have started massing together during lunch breaks within the BOC premises to express their anti-directive sentiments.

Moreover, it was gathered that importers are already hurting due to the virtual shutdown across all ports in the country and because of this, the affected importers and brokers sought a meeting with BOC officials yesterday to break the impasse.

In view of the growing backlash caused by the DOF-initiated directive, Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said he would ask DOF Secretary Cesar Purisima to reconsider the directive upon receipt of assessment reports from Customs collectors nationwide on the implementation of the said directive.