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Customs chief Sevilla quits post 


(Updated 6:49 p.m.) Just over a year after his appointment, Bureau of Customs Commissioner John "Sunny" Sevilla resigned from his post, announcing his resignation at a press briefing on Thursday.
 
"Ginawa ko na ang makakakaya ko, sana ang sumunod sa'kin, ipagpatuloy natin, mas maayos sana," he added. "I hope he will do better than me, dahil lubhang-lubhang nasa panganib ang daang matuwid sa Customs." 

Sevilla admitted encountering difficulties in implementing reforms in Customs.
 
"Kapag gawin mo ang tama sa Customs, may risk kang kahaharapin," he said.
 
Sevilla said he hopes that the official who will replace him will continue the reforms now in place in the bureau.
 
Formerly a Department of Finance undersecretary, Sevilla was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III to the bureau’s top post in December 2013, after then-Customs chief Ruffy Biazon resigned.
 
Biazon, a former congressman, stepped down after having been named by the Department of Justice along with 33 others as respondent to a malversation case involving the alleged pork barrel scam.
 
Sevilla was earlier appointed OIC of the Bureau of Customs, an appointment the government was "in full support" of, said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. 
 
Sevilla filed his resignation before the president on Wednesday. He added that he hopes Aquino will accept his resignation.
 
"My resignation will be effective as soon as there will a replacement," he said. He declined to identify his replacement.
 
"Kilala ko, pero hindi ko muna sasabihin," he said.

Unfinished business
 
Sevilla regrets being unable to finish the reforms he started in the bureau, noting he could no longer stand the "political nature" hounding the BOC.
 
"Nitong huling mga linggo, may nakakausap akong mga kaibigan sa Customs, lahat kami nag-a-agree na ramdam na ramdam ngayon na political ang atmosphere... May political factors na gumagalaw in the background," he said. 
 
"Noong nagsimula ako dito, ginawa ko ang lahat para hindi maging factor ang politika ang palakad sa Customs," the official noted. "Nitong mga nakaraang buwan, pahirap ng pahirap iyon... Nitong mga darating na buwan, baka maging imposible na iyon."
 
He could no longer stand the corrupt practices of some of his colleagues, Sevilla claimed.
 
"Marami na akong pinagtiyagaan, marami na akong binabantayan, tao lang ako, hanggang dito nalang kakayahan ko," he said.
 
"Pangalawa, bakit kailangang tanggapin ng mga empleyado ng Customs, ng mga nagrereporma sa Customs, 'yung consequences ng political compromises? Ang hirap-hirap na ng aming ginagawa dito... Bakit kailangan pang isama iyon?" he added. 
 
He questioned why the appointment of some officials are being pushed in the bureau, citing the case of Customs Intellectual Property head Teddy Raval who is being pushed as head of Enforcement and Security Service.
 
"Walang ibang dahilan na binibigay para sa appontment ni Attorney Raval," he said. "Malakas ang tulak na ma-promote sa matataas na posisyon sa Customs," Sevilla noted.
 
"Kapag nangyayari ang ganyan, pinu-push ang ganyan, ako ay nagdududa sa kanilang motivations," he added.
 
He claimed hearing from others the "force" pushing for the appointment is the Iglesia ni Cristo.
 
"Lahat ng nagsasabi, Iglesia ni Cristo ang nagtutulak raw niyan, hindi ako nakakasiguro, at ayaw ko maniwala na sila ang nagtutulak, pero consistent sa nagtutulak sa appointment ni Attorney Raval iyon ang sinasabi," the official claimed. "Kung hindi sila, eh 'di sino? Maliwanag sa'kin kung sino ang nagtutulak na 'yon."

A seaprate report on GMA News TV's "Quick Response Team" quoted Edwin Zabala, Iglesia Ni Cristo spokesperson, as saying the head of the church has yet to issue a statement on the matter.
 
GMA News Online also sought comment from Raval, but he was not in his office. Raval's staff said the BOC official is attending a conference.
 
In order for the reforms to be implemented, Sevilla said the next Customs chief should have the necessary "political skills" which he himself does not have.
 
"Wala po akong political skills," he said. "Ang mamumuno dito ay dapat may kakayahang mag-navigate, mamuno sa isang political environment, habang tinutulak ang reforms, kailangang may political skills ang commissioner ng Customs."

Most improved agency
 
In a statement, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said Sevilla "transformed Customs to be one of the most radically open and transparent agencies in government, has made government regulation more efficient for doing business in the country, and has taken great strides to thwart graft, technical and outright smuggling by filing cases, alert orders and seizures against erring importers, brokers, and officials."
 
The bureau's collections in 2014 have grown 21 percent as compared to the 5 percent in the "pre-reform period," according to the Cabinet official, saying "... Customs is the most improved national government agency in terms of revenue collection last year, thanks in no small part to the person who lead it," he added.
 
"I wish him all the best and I am confident that the foundations Commissioner Sevilla has built will allow a clear path of reform for whoever his appointed successor is... Commissioner Sevilla has set the bar extremely high: his successor will have big shoes to fill," Purisima said. – VS/JDS, GMA News

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