FINANCE Secretary Cesar Purisima and Customs Commissioner Albert Lina were accused of graft and grave abuse of authority before the Office of the Ombudsman Tuesday for putting 67 career officials on floating status and replacing them with “unfit” retired generals who cost the government an extra expense of P201 million for salaries.
In a complaint filed Tuesday, lawyer Elvira Cruz, Customs port collector in Bataan and other similarly situated officers accused Lina of defying Civil Service Commission and Court of Appeals rulings that ordered him and Purisima to reinstate them in their old posts.
President Benigno Aquino III, they said, was aware that the bureau suffered a P169.02-billion shortfall in collections over the last three years because of the inefficiency and incompetence of their replacements.
“We can only surmise the reason behind the hiring of co-terminus, non-career and unskilled retired generals and personnel, including utility men, whose only job was to sign papers to allow the releases of shipments,” Cruz said.
“These retired generals and other non-organic personnel replaced those who were in the Customs bureau for as long as 29 years and were assigned to plantilla positions that are not allowed by law and given compensation higher than what we are receiving,” Cruz said.
“Can you imagine me, a lawyer, being replaced by a retired Coast Guard commodore, who knows nothing about the Bureau of Customs? Then he was replaced by a utility man, whose job was only to sign papers and God knows if he knew what those papers were,” Cruz told The Standard.
“That mere act alone was tantamount to constructive dismissal against me, not to mention them threatening my security of tenure,” she added.
Another Customs official who requested anonymity said the incompetence had cost the government some P201 million in double salary expenses and a P169.02 billion shortfall in revenuefor the past three years.
In 2013, Cruz said President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive Order 139 creating the Office of Revenue Agency Modernization (ORAM), where some 50 retired generals and 17 other Department of Finance executives were made to hold office.
The President subsequently issued EO 140 creating Customs Policy Research Office, where all the 67 floating officials were assigned, without a clear mandate.
Both offices were placed under Purisima’s supervision in the DoF and physically situated in the DoF building with the BoC as their mother unit.
Cruz said she filed a case with the Civil Service Commission and won, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the commission’s ruling.
But Purisima and Lina continued to defy both rulings, prompting Cruz to file graft and administrative charges against them.
Purisima maintained the order of the President stands unless revoked by the chief executive.
“The reason why [Purisima and Lina] opted to deploy an inexperienced and underqualified employee for the position can only be surmised. Notwithstanding the reason, however, these facts bear relevance: Prejudice has been caused to an employee who, by law, should be reinstated to the position. Likewise, prejudice has been caused to the government which is made to pay an individual who is underqualified for a position,” Cruz said.
Cruz said Purisima and Lina violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by failing to heed the CSC order.
In his motion for reconsideration, Purisima said Cruz had proved she was effective and efficient in her new position at the CPRO, a claim Cruz disputed.
All 67 officials who were put on floating status, including Cruz, were made to report to the CPRO, where little work was done and where they were not allowed to leave their desks from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Another official who was put on floating status at the CPRO told The Standard they were put in an office and were made to share the room with security guards, who were also victims of “not having padrinos.”
“How would Purisima justify a security guard being tasked to make policies and research? While most of us can do it, they did not allow us to do anything. The President’s EOs may sound so respectable and exciting because the CPRO is supposed to initiate reforms in the BoC but the truth is, we were made to report everyday to do nothing only because they wanted to place their own men in highly sensitive and strategic positions like those we once held. We still hold the position and are getting paid for it but we were placed on floating status for the past three years,” the source said.
Cruz confirmed the situation.
Cruz said a port collector from Mindanao was uprooted and brought to Manila because a retired general took her position.
“That official had to leave her minor daughter and a paralyzed husband and had to rent a small room in Manila so as not to lose her job because she was the only breadwinner. Her only mistake was that someone Purisima or Lina knew was interested in her post or they trusted him so much even if he was not qualified for the job,” Cruz said.
The source said those who dared leave their desks were slapped with several administrative cases, including “loafing” or loitering.
Among the ranking officials who were put on floating status were two deputy commissioners, five directors, 17 Customs collectors from 17 ports all over the country, deputy collectors and those in the intelligence division.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by The Standard. Comments are views by thestandard.ph readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of thestandard.ph. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with The Standard editorial standards, The Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.