Press Release
September 15, 2011

Transcript of ambush interview on the appointment of
Ruffy Biazon as new BOC Commissioner OF Sen. Serge Osmeña

Serge: I think Ruffy will surprise everybody. Pagbigyan niyo lang siya to get settled for about 6 months, you will have surprises. Ang maganda po ngayon, ang back-up niya, si Gen. Danny Lim. So they will be able to work in tandem. I think the President made a smart decision in bringing in an outsider, so walang mga buddy-buddy diyan, walang kasabwat, walang padrino system. He will try to make it run more professionally rather than before.

Q: Anong dapat niyang maging priority?

Serge: If I were the one there, the first thing I will do is to simplify the system. Because the more complicated it is, the more your agents can run circles around you. Our tariff book has, I don't know, maybe 100,000 items. You change the color of your eyeglasses, that's another 30% in tariff. Diyan nagkakaroon ng ayusan, ng lagayan. He just have to simplify it. And maybe its more practical because it's easier to judge what type of collections you are getting and how much and whether it's on time by having a simplified system. And 2, by 2015, we will have the AFTA, the Asean Free Trade Association, in place already. Talagang most of our goods will gonna be imported by 0 to 5% tariff. Let's simplify it now already so we can make it easier for the overseers of the Bureau of Customs to control what's going on.

Q: Outsiders sila pero OJT naman sila doon?

Serge: Yes and No. Ruffy has been in government for 3 terms, that's 9 years. He has served many aspects of government. He has also worked with us here in the Senate, with his Dad, with my office. He has also been an entrepreneur, he has started his own business. So, he does know management. And we're encouraging, we are supportive of him in bringing his own management team, to be able to study the system now on-going at the Bureau of Customs and to simplify, to drastically simplify the system.

Q: Talagang talamak ang smuggling kaya hindi tumataas ang collection ng BOC?

Serge: Alam mo, let's take the example of the 2000 missing containers. Bakit pinapalabas sa isang port at tinatanggap iyong explanation na sa darating doon sa kabilang port, sa port of Batangas? Are you really going to wait until 2000 containers have already left your port before you find out, "Uy, missing pala ito." Ang bilis-bilis ngayon ng communication. I-cellphone mo lang iyan at sabihin mo, "Uy, hindi pa dumadating dito." Eh di patay. That's number one.

Number 2. There are many ways of tracking containers. Pwedeng lagyan mo lang 'yan ng maliit na chip at mata-track na iyan, parang satellite. Iyang mga I-Phones ninyo, nalalaman ng mga asawa ninyo kung nasaan kayo, hindi ba? So, ang daming kalokohan. In other words, there was collusion, it was planned. And the top people kept a blind eye. Maybe because they had a share in the loot. It's so simple. It just astounds any guy of average intelligence how we can allow this to continue for decades...

Q: Hindi kaya eventually kainin din ng sinasabing 'institutionalized corruption' diyan sina Biazon and Gen. Lim?

Serge: That's correct. So that's why I think it's correct that President Aquino made the right decision to bring in outsiders.


Q: Over-all, how do you see the economic management of the government?

Serge: I do not think the numbers really reflect the confidence that has really gone up by leaps and bounds in this country. Sapagkat nagkakaroon po ng malaking problema dun sa Amerika, sa Europe, so naapektuhan din tayo kasi maliit lang tayo eh. You know what they say. When the US catches a cold, we get pneuomonia, ganun ang nangyayari. And we've been holding on well despite of all that because we have diversified our trading patterns.

I am hopeful that when the economic turmoil in Europe closes over 1 or 2 years, and the United States also starts recovering, then we will see a much brighter future here.

Q: How do you see Philippine trading with China?

Serge: Ahhh...interesting iyan. Abangan mo na lang ang question ko kay Ambassador Lee.


Q: Sen. Miriam is calling on all senators to already make public their position on the RH Bill...Sabi po niya kayo daw po atsaka si Sen. Recto ang nagpapatagal kasi nagpapalista kayo na mag-i-interpellate pero hindi naman ninyo tinutuloy...

Serge: Ako nagde-delay? No. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN FOR THE RH BILL. I was a co-author pa with Sen. Pong Biazon a few years ago...

I only wanted 1 amendment, and Sen. Miriam said she would accept it. And my amendment is that we must recognize that conception begins at fertilization, and not upon implantation in the womb.

Q: Is it true that marami pang legislators ang takot pa na isapubliko ang stand nila sa RH Bill? Takot sila sa mga religious groups na pro and anti-RH bill?

Serge: Definitely there is a very strong group lobbying against the RH bill. So, to those who might want to remain under the radar, I don't blame them. But I have always been very open: I am for the RH bill.

Q: Sir, importante na maipasa niyo na ang RH bill kasi papasok na ang budget deliberations at ma-co-comatose na 'yung bill?

Serge: You must remember that here in the Senate, we've always allowed someone who has many intelligent questions to ask to have the floor for as long as it takes. Nakikita ko naman na 'yung mga questions nila Senate President Enrile and Sen. Sotto are really intelligent questions, they're well-researched, they're well reasoned out, and they want to put it on the record. That's their right and I will defend their right to do that. Unfortunately, unless and until Senate President Enrile and Senator Sotto have exhausted their questions, they must be given the chance to air their side.

Now, having said that, let me say that the only way to shorten this is to extend session hours. From 1 or 2 hours, we can extend it to 5 or 6 hours. That's what we do during the budget time, di ba? Hanggang 4 am kami dito.So, that's the only way to do it.

Q: Morning and afternoon sessions kapag budget na?

Serge: We can do that. It's just the length of time. Pero alam niyo, nakakapagod iyan. I have great admiration of Senate President Enrile. I don't know where he gets the stamina. He has taken it upon his shoulders. He just stands there, asking one intelligent question after another. Maybe we can learn something from that. Maybe I can reach 87 and also do that.

Q: I-sa-suggest mo na i-extend na lang ang sessions?

Serge: No. I will let Sen. Miriam be the one to suggest that because she's the one to voice the complaint, and she's got every right to also voice that complaint. But she must also know the ways and means to shorten, or telescope the time involved in passing the bill, by simply extending the hours.

Q: But by the rate things are going, baka abutan na ng budget, hindi na kayo makapag-botohan?

Serge: Hindi naman. You see yesterday, Senate President Enrile stood on the floor but it was only 1 hour. We adjourned at 6 o'clock. If they wanted, we could have gone on until 8 o'clock, or 9 o'clock. So, I don't think it will overlap with the budget deliberations. The budget debates in the floor will begin in November yet.

Q: Firm na 'yung stand mo o pwede pang mabago iyon?

Serge: That's pretty firm. This has been going on for 6 years. And I have always backed it up.

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