Thus read the recent call for service from the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC), more than a week since newly-appointed Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla took the helm of the agency.
The advisory appeared on the Department of Finance website and a toned-down version began running on the BOC website on the same day, five months after the country’s second-largest revenue generating-agency was castigated by President Benigno Aquino himself in his last State of the Nation Address.
Sources say Sevilla had earlier posted a similar advisory on his Facebook account wall.
In the screamer of the advisory on the BOC website, the phrase “the most hated government agency” has been changed to “the Bureau of Customs.”
Observers said the advisory reflects the resolve of the new BOC leadership to pursue its mission to clean up the notoriously corrupt bureau and strengthen its revenue collection efforts.
“I’m looking to hire smart, combative people who can think on their feet, take initiative, and turn down large bribes,” Sevilla was quoted as saying in the advisory.
There is no timeline as to how long the agency will look for new blood.
In his speech during the first state conference on the UN Convention Against Corruption on Dec. 19, Aquino said the government realizes that “going after those who did wrong will only yield long-term results if you can rid the system itself of inefficiencies,” and that it would be no use to run after the smuggler if the bureaucracy itself, with its “many systemic fractures and inefficiencies”, is not conducive to integrity and moral governance.
“This is why we ended the era of mere cosmetic changes in the Bureau of Customs by hitting the reset button,” Aquino stated.
“We appointed an entirely new set of Deputy Commissioners to take charge of the agency with newly appointed Commissioner Sunny Sevilla, all of whom are honest and competent,” Aquino added, noting the recall of all personnel in the agency working outside their jurisdictions back to their mother units.
What that means is some personnel who applied in Jolo are assigned to Manila, so Jolo lacks personnel while Manila is overstaffed, Aquino said.
“As for the mid-level officials who have perhaps got(ten) too used to the old ways, they are now focusing their talent on policy research, as we begin to infuse new blood into our ports of entry, perceived by many to be one of the hotbeds of corruption, or one of the hotbeds of corruption,” Aquino added.
The Customs Policy Research Office, created under Executive Order No. 140, is a think tank under the Department of Finance where many BOC officials, including port district collectors, former deputy commissioners and BOC office heads, had already been moved to help research and formulate customs policy.
“We are confident that these initial steps will give the new Customs leadership the wherewithal to truly steer the ship around – for, finally, he will have crew members who will steer in the same direction,” Aquino concluded.
Sevilla earlier said that “reform in Customs is a long list of very unglamorous operational details that need to be thought through very carefully”. –– Roumina M. Pablo
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