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Biazon’s fate hangs

12 customs officials in a ‘freezer’

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, one of 34 officials charged by the Justice Department with malversation of funds and graft in connection with the pork barrel scam, got a reprieve after President Benigno Aquino III summoned him to explain his side on the issue, even as twelve other Customs men were placed in a “freezer” on orders of Biazon himself.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. on Saturday said the president has summoned Biazon to discuss his case, without prejudice to the ongoing investigation.

Coloma also sidestepped questions on whether Biazon should quit his post out of “delicadeza,” saying that only Biazon can decide whether he should quit or not.

Coloma added that he had already consulted with Justice Secretary de Lima on the legal aspects of the case. De Lima, according to Coloma, said that while a review and evaluation by the Ombudsman are going on, there was ‘no legal compulsion’ for Biazon to go on leave.

As of presstime, there was no word on the outcome of the Aquino-Biazon meeting but Coloma denied rumor that Biazon was planning to quit because of the case.

“We don’t have that information,” Coloma said but reminded the public that “everyone serves at the pleasure of the President.”

Meanwhile, the twelve Customs men who were ‘frozen’ and transferred to the Customs Policy Research Office, include Kissenger Reyes, Director III at the bureau’s Technology Management Service - Management Information Systems and Technology Group and Ramon Cuyco, Director III at the Revenue Collection and Monitoring Group.

Nine Customs lawyers assigned at the Investigation Division, Appellate Division and Prosecution and Litigation Division were also reassigned to the CPRO, among them Eden Dandal, Javier Alpano, Lyceo Martinez, Giovanni Leynes, Roberto Sacramento, Balmyrson Valdez and Ricardo Morales.

Antonio Ferraren, assigned as Collector I in Port of Appari, was also ordered transferred to the new DoF office.

Biazon signed the new Customs Personnel Order on November 25 which was approved by Finance Secretary Purisima.

The Finance department, which directly supervises the Customs bureau, recommended several names to replace those transferred. Five of the newly designated Customs officials were retired military generals that came from the Office of the Revenue Agency Modernization (ORAM).

Biazon said he hoped that those who were transferred will comply and cooperate in the reforms in the graft-ridden agency. He denied accusations that the transfers were to the CPRO were illegal and would result to their demotion and eventually place them in floating status.

He explained that the move is “more than a reshuffle because the collectors are actually transferred to the Department of Finance, out of the Bureau of Customs. Instead of reassignment to another port, they are basically reassigned to another office.” With Joel E. Zurbano

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