The resignation of an educated, competent and professional Bureau of Customs Commissioner in the person of John Sevilla is indeed unfortunate, as it is tragic.
It took a long time to find an honest and courageous man to head the allegedly most corrupt department in government and when he was making headways against all odds, he stood down.
What does this mean to people who are doers and capable of towing the line of President Benigno Aquino’s (PNoy) ‘tuwid na daan’ (straight path), yet find themselves so frustrated that they have no other option but to quit, lamenting about the unfinished job they have started?
What this means actually is that one does not have to be an insider to be able to manage effectively an organization that is too known for its corrupt practices. An outsider can do the job just as well, if not better, for as long as he knows what it takes to run and clean up the place, if that was the mandate.
No less than Secretary of Finance Cesar Purisima, to whom Sevilla reports, made the following statements on the latter’s performance and resignation:
The numbers do not lie: as head of the Customs Reform Team, he has helped grow the Bureau’s collections by 21% year on year in 2014 versus 5% in the pre-reform period, 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 of 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.
Amid these results, I respect his well-discerned decision to resign. In a span of a year and half, he has shown us that what was then impossible is now possible. It is possible to hope that we can transform institutions, with uncompromising courage and integrity.
A product of Cornell and Princeton, Commissioner Sevilla has served the public well in his lengthy career in government. Even with his stellar record of 6 years as Undersecretary under 2 Secretaries of Finance in his belt, I think unleashing transformative reform in the Bureau of Customs will remain to be one of the pinnacles of his legacy in government. There is always a time when one has to rest and take leave: today is one such day for a fine public servant who has waged the good fight against corruption well.
So what went wrong?
Yes, you got it right! Politics got in the way.
Again reports are circulating that a member of PNoy’s cabinet and some people close to him had been trying to influence, nay pressuring, Sevilla to do things against his will.
The people mentioned here are said to be prominent members of the KKK, which stands for Kapartido, Kabarilan, Kaklase (Partymate, Shooting buddy, Classmate).
“Politics is in the atmosphere. I could feel strongly political factors are moving in the background,” Sevilla said
“In the past months, it was increasingly becoming difficult. In the coming months, it will probably be impossible to (fight politics),” Sevilla added, explaining his resignation. “I am saddened that I could not finish what I had started.”
Sevilla had earlier indicated that the bureau has been a milking cow of political camps for campaign fundraising, a situation he vowed to fight under his watch.
As usual, PNoy, when it comes to friends as suspects, takes on the proverbial principle of the three wise monkeys, that of “seeing no evil, hearing no evil, and speaking no evil”.
This is what makes ‘tuwid na daan’ a fallacy.