Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.
I look at government service as a relay race. Government service is not a sprint or a marathon. So while you are holding the baton, you should run as fast as you can, work as hard as you can, and hope that when you pass the baton to the next person, the organization that you are leading is in a better shape than when you first inherited it. Such is the case with the Bureau of Customs: the BOC is in a better shape now than when Commissioner Sevilla took over. And I thank him for that.
I also expect Commissioner Lina to run even faster, work even harder, to make sure that when it is his time to turn over the Bureau of Customs, it is in an even better shape than today.
The mandate of reform started when President Aquino was elected to office in 2010. Both his mandate and agenda are very clear: this is the reason why I am Secretary of Finance, the reason why Commissioner Sevilla was Commissioner of Customs, the reason Commissioner Lina is now Commissioner of Customs. We push on because of the mandate the President has given us. It is his vast political capital that serves as the foundation of our actions in furthering our reform agenda.
Without his support, we would not have been able to accomplish what Commissioner Sevilla had accomplished, and what we had accomplished in the past four and a half years. It has been a rare privilege to work with a President who is totally different from the rest. Histuwid na daan agenda is unwavering: we talk it, we walk it, we dream about how much farther it can bring us.
In 2014, we have proven that with the leadership of Commissioner Sevilla in Customs, that the BOC can actually be reformed. The best evidence is the fact that collections grew by 21%. The numerous operational reforms that are underway is another evidence, as well as the renewed confidence that people now have with the organization. But as Commissioner Sevilla had pointed out, it was not just him—it was the many others who believed in the reform agenda, who believed that Customs can actually do so much better. These are the people who are equally responsible for change.
The support that the President has given us is both critical and unprecedented. I am here to say that that support remains unchanged.
The Philippines is a democracy. In a democracy, politics is a reality and the way of life. I believe that the two can go hand in hand: that we can have efficient institutions that can serve our expectations under a democratic setting. There will be challenges along the way, but we must persevere.
For example, in the year or so that Commissioner Sevilla and I worked together, we had many arguments, just like how I had many arguments with Commissioner Henares.
I probably disagree with my colleagues 90% of the time, but we respect each other. And when one has proven his or her point, we move on. Those who work with me know that I prefer people who speak their mind and deliver, those who walk their talk.
And that is why I am really happy that I have had the opportunity to work with Commissioner Sevilla for the past four and a half years, especially the last year and a half. I did not choose him as Customs Commissioner; in fact it was the President. Credit goes to the President: he has an eye for talent. He believed that a person who is smart, who is honest, whose heart is in the right place, can make a difference.
And true enough, he did make a difference. But for all of us—our stint in government is not forever. In fact, we only have a short time and our challenge is to make sure that we do the best we can during our short time in government.
So Commissioner Lina, you will also have a short time but I hope that you make a big difference. Customs is a unique organization. It is a much sought after position, that of the Commissioner. The challenge for government is to look for the right bright person. Those that want the job, you end up not wanting. Those who you do want, either do not want it, or have difficulty disengaging themselves from their current lives. And that is why I’m really very appreciative of Commissioner Lina’s sacrifice because I know that this is indeed a sacrifice, not only financially, but emotionally (the intrigues have began and it is par for the course).
Commissioner Lina, I hope you begin anew with an eye towards the difference that you can make, with an eye towards the possibilities that Commissioner Sevilla has proven can be unlocked after all, with the respect owed to those that we work with, and with the hope that we can turn the support, the agenda, and the mandate of the President into more results and returns for our people to reap.
Commissioner Lina, I thank you for accepting the challenge. I thank you, Commissioner Sevilla, for turning Customs into better shape. I thank you for your support and for supporting Commissioner Lina.