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Palace defends allies vs criticism

President Aquino took up the cudgels for two of his buddies, presidential adviser on environmental protection Sec. Nereus Acosta and Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon, who have recently come under public criticism. “I am reasonably confident that he will be able to weather this particular challenge,” the President said of Acosta, who posted bail on Wednesday after the Sandiganbayan affirmed the warrant of arrest it issued earlier this year. “He is a partymate and a long-time ally. We have been through many challenges together,” Mr. Aquino said, maintaining that he will not interfere in the Sandiganbayan’s legal process. Acosta’s case stemmed from the allegedly anomalous transfer of a P5.5 million from the former contgressman’s Priority Development Assistance Fund to the Bukidnon Vegetable Producers Cooperative, a private company owned by the Acosta family. Aside from Acosta, the President also expressed support for Biazon who has been criticized for his continuing failure to meet revenue collection targets and the unabated smuggling of rice and oil in the country. On his way back to Manila from Cebu, the President said a major overhaul of the Bureau of Customs will soon be implemented by the administration to rid the bureau of scalawags and misfits and he met with Biazon last week to discuss the plan’s details. “I gave certain specifics to Ruffy. We discussed our plans for Customs,” the President said. “I can assure you everyone will see that what we will implement is a widespread and all-encompassing solution to the scourge that is smuggling.” “I think everybody will be surprised what changes the administration will implement at Bureau of Customs,” he added. The President said the government has actually started implementing the supposed anti-smuggling plan. “But I will not divulge the entire plan yet as this might cause difficulty on the part of authorities to perform their tasks,” he said. President Aquino just stated that he has given specific directives to the BOC Commissioner on what to do to eradicate smuggling in the country. Some sectors are calling for his resignation but the Palace said it won’t replace him. “I think Commissioner Biazon is doing what he can. We are taking steps, Commissioner Biazon is taking steps to improve the situation at Customs. Let’s give him a chance to do that,” said Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang in a briefing.- With PNA
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