There’s the Rub



I do think P-Noy’s tack of embarrassing or shaming or humiliating the errant or recidivist in the bureaucratic ranks is commendable. But it has its downside, too.

We saw it when he took Customs to task, along with Irrigation and Immigration, last Monday without naming names. We do know Customs is one of the most corrupt institutions on this planet, our Customs in particular, but we also know, or suspect, that it has sown a few good seeds there over the last three years. They now thrive, though tenuously, alongside the bad ones that continue to teem and riot there.

Those bad seeds will be the hardest things to root out: Customs is an “open sesame” to a fabled fortune; the sums to be made there by taking the less than straight and narrow path are absolutely mind-boggling. Tens of millions of pesos per week, if not per day, for well-ensconced officials. The temptation is huge, and most people in Customs are huge believers in Oscar Wilde’s witticism that the best way to deal with temptation is to yield to it.

In any case, what happened after P-Noy damned the office without naming names is that the wrong people felt referred to, the wrong people being the more honest ones, the good seeds in that funny farm. The right people, the more corrupt ones, the bad seeds in the funny farm, will never feel referred to. At the least because they have PR agencies who can always divert attention away from them by pointing to others. At the most because they have developed a talent, or thick hide, for not feeling referred to. Unless of course they are specifically named, the way P-Noy specifically named Augusto Syjuco, and probably not even then.

In short, you cannot shame someone who has no shame. But you can shame someone who does, who has something to lose in the good name that he has, who has something to lose in the honorable life he’s always led. Which stands to be taken away from him by something like this.

Such a one is Danilo Lim.

He was the first, and very likely only, casualty of the presidential castigation of Customs. He’s the only one who has tendered an irrevocable resignation. I doubt we’ll see a stream of similar resignations, let alone a flood.

It’s almost an irrevocable truism about the bureaucracy: Talo ang disente. The decent lose. Unfortunately, it’s not just they who lose, the government does, too, the citizenry does, too, the nation does, too.

Lim’s departure from Customs, if it proves truly final and irrevocable, will be a spectacular loss to it. It will be a massive loss to the government. He is quite possibly the most honest man in Customs. He is quite arguably at least one of the most decent persons in the government.

I met Lim years ago in Camp Crame; he was an inmate there after the failed coup attempts against Cory. I was visiting some of the leftist leaders there with whom the coup plotters were residing, and with whom, by dint of discussion and argument, they had formed friendships. It was easy for Lim to find a common ground with the other prisoners. He was an honorable enemy, the kind you respected far more than fickle, or opportunist, friends. Just as well, he ardently believed, and theorized (he was the brains in RAM), that for any military action to succeed against a corrupt leader, it needed more than swiftness and boldness and brute force. It needed the support of the people.

I wasn’t surprised at all when he led the “withdrawal of support” from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2007 and got jailed again for his pains. He got out only after P-Noy became president.

More to the point, as far as Customs went, I remember him telling me his frustrations as Intelligence head of that office, how fighting smuggling seemed an epically arduous climb. What the right hand taketh away in raids and seizures of contraband, the left giveth back with interest, and there were more left hands than right.

Seeing how his financial fortunes seemed to have scarcely improved since he joined Customs, I asked him once how he himself dealt with the temptations of office.  He replied that of course the temptations were huge, the sums that were being hinted at, or plain dangled before him, were fabulous. Particularly for someone who wasn’t rich—he is one of very few high-ranking members of RAM who never got to be so—it was a veritable treasure.

But he never really wavered in his convictions. He always remembered, he said, his long years in prison, the years he spent often in isolation, removed from fellow officers and friends, whiling his time tilling a small plot of land and raising a brood of chickens. And he would ask himself: Did he go through all that just to throw everything away for this? It does put the relative value of things in perspective. It does offer new reflections on “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”

Outside looking in, it’s the hardest thing to understand how someone who wasn’t being referred to should do something as rash or impetuous as resign. Which in fact opens him to intrigue, which the real culprits in Customs, or their official intrigador, also called PR, would only be too willing, and eager, to sow. But inside looking out, well, a good name is something to be prickly about, pride is something to be jealously protective about, honor is something to take in finicky, all-or-nothing, life-and-death terms. Those are the only precious things a good man has. Hell, those are the only things a good man has.

I still think Lim should rethink his resignation, or be made to. If not, a good man will be out of Customs, a good man will be out of the government. Given that looking for 10 just men at least in the first is like doing so in Sodom and Gomorrah, that is a horrendous shame.

That is truly sayang.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • pinoynga

    However, the way I look at it is, if Danny Lim is a decent, honorable, as well as supposedly capable head, and his bureau is in trouble, what would that say of the head admitting he could not do anything, regardless?

    The system of appointing department heads and commissioners I think is flawed. What basically we need are excellent managers, those who get things done outside the realm of politics.

    I believe the critical financial and mission critical government agencies concerned should be run by trained professionals and proven CEOs of large organizations and not former politicians.

    I would have agreed with you regarding Gen Lim except that he wanted to be transferred after admitting there’s nothing he could do at customs. Having done nothing is not acceptable. In the first place, he should have not accepted the position knowing what he will be up to. Being a former military officer trained to fight, defend and face death, makes me feel lost and wondering.

    In this case, “sayang” nga talaga.

  • Mang Teban

    A gentleman and an officer does not deserve to be in the bureau that is headed by an ineffective leader who runs to his boss to complain that there are “kapalmuks” engaged in corruption and all he needs is additional funds for computerization.
    The boss is so tactless to reprimand the entire bureau for low collection and changes his mind about letting go of the squealing head. The boss says that “No, I wasn’t referring to you.” It is nuts to think that the boss did it correctly.
    Sheesh, Conrado. Stop it already. Your behind-licking and covering-up the mess is sickening.
    Danilo Lim’s resignation will be accepted, I bet you. The boss does not like being embarrassed. Look what he did to the PAGASA head who had all the good reasons to leave for Qatar to support his family. But, the boss brushed him aside like his departure had no effect at all in the agency.

  • AllinLawisFair

    PR – the agency which apply cosmetics on the ugly faces of shameless Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials and employees whose only motive in working there is to get rich quick.

    In essence PR in fact represents what our Ilocano-speaking countrymen call “puskol rupa,” ( I am not sure of the correctness of my spelling; I just relied on the sound of it).

    Those “puskol rupas” in the BOC are the scourge of society, of the Filipino people, of the country. The are the malignant tumours that eat up the fibre and flesh of the body politic, of the nation. They are the leeches or the vampires that suck the nation’s blood, the parasites that feed on the host body and thy will be the vultures that would feed on the carcass once the body is dead.

    I am sorry for having said this, but if the President could say publicly “makakapal ang mukha,” to those who shamelessly take advantage of every opportunity to enrich themselves in office, I then say this to express my anger at what they do.

  • Fulpol

    short of collection in BOC, lahat nasabon sa SONA.. rude..

    10 billion pork scam, wala man lang narinig sa kanyang SONA.. idiot at makapili..

    • Mamang Pulis

      ang galing talga ni fulpy…napuna kagad…

      • marionics

        he he baka maniwala yan a he he

      • Mamang Pulis

        shhhh…sya ang taya sa mcdo bukas, baka magbago isip— hindi ako ilibre.

    • batchmatters

      fulpy, do your really believe one should telegraph his punches to alarm his target/s?

  • Fulpol

    CDQ tried to defend Lim.. if you try to save Lim, you are trying to save the entire BOC employees..

    if BS Aquino-Makapili III tried to save Biazon, he is trying to save the entire BOC employees..

    “abah, inosente kaming lahat…. sino magpi-PR sa amin? si Cong Biazon, si CDQ??. bakit kami magre-resign.”

    inaanay ang BOC.. huwag sunugin ang buong bahay.. patayin lang ang mga anay.. sino papatay?? walang nagawa si Biazon, walang nagawa si Lim..

    mas malakas yung anay kesa sa in-appoint na papatay sa anay.. yung exterminator siya pa yung ma-exterminate… magre-resign..

    the good is the weakest… the corrupt is the strongest..

    kapal ng mukha?? dapat tanungin din ni CDQ ang kanyang brod na naging SSS President agad..

  • Guest

    Papano lilinisin ang BOC kung andyan nagpapakabusog ang utol ni Belmonte,lower house speaker…kaya ba nila mga Enrile na may sariling smuggling sa Cagayan? hahaha…para kayong bumangga sa pader…kaya nga mas makakahinga si Lim sa pagreresign..!! Bato bato sa langit…..

  • viscan1

    Replace Biazon with Lacson and retain Gen Lim and you will see drastic no none sense reforms and high revenues from BOC which we did not experience.

  • boybakal

    Lim realized how the government works.
    It is not what he thought to be….that’s why he revolted so many.
    It is two different world…a make believe world of Lim against the reality of the world.

    There is no sayang on Lim….he is just not the right person for the job.
    We need qualified men not based on what he imagines but what he can bring to the table.

  • AlzheimersC

    Ibigay na lang sa army ang pagbabantay ng BOC, weekly ang palitan ng mga sundalo…

  • 1GeorgeTolentino2

    If he is such a good man, how come he wasn’t able to bust all the shenanigans in the Bureau and expose the criminals inside the BOC?

    • David Lim

      Hope you’ll experience what it entails to try to transform a corrupt system.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks

May 22, 2015

China versus Edca

May 21, 2015

Right thing to do