Many ‘lessons learned’ by this policy wonk
You could call Rozzano “Ruffy” Biazon a policy wonk, defined as “a person who takes an excessive interest in minor details of political policy.”
This is not so strange because Biazon has spent much of his adult life walking the halls of the legislature, and then treading the perilous waters of the bureaucracy, more specifically the infamous whirlpool that is the Bureau of Customs.
Though he has yet to recover his full equanimity after his rather abrupt departure from the BOC, Biazon it seems hasn’t lost his love for governance or for legislative work. More specifically, he hasn’t lost the desire to serve his constituents in Muntinlupa whom he served as a congressman from 2001 to 2010.
In those nine years, he filed more than 200 bills and resolutions, being the principal author of eight bills that were signed into law. Among these were a law increasing penalties for those involved in the illegal numbers game known as “jueteng”), another law granting tax relief for certain taxpayers, a law instituting a socialized and low-cost housing loan restructuring program, and another strengthening the Philippines’ disaster risk reduction and management system.
Indeed, one could say that Biazon’s “wonky” track record is not bad at all.
His career in public service began right after college when, at age 22, he was appointed the youth representative in the Videogram Regulatory Board. In 1992, he entered the Senate premises as chief of staff of his father, then the newly-retired Armed Forces Chief of Staff Rodolfo Biazon, who had been elected senator.
In 1995, after his father’s failed bid for reelection, Ruffy Biazon was appointed chief legislative officer of Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, a position he left in 1998 to once again serve his senator-father.
In total, he directed and managed his father’s campaign through three elections, and served in the Senate for a total of seven years.
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Biazon sought his own path in 2001 when he ran for congressman of the lone district of Muntinlupa, and despite the odds, he narrowly beat the incumbent by 1,500 votes. Throughout his congressional career, he has had to fight hard—very hard—to retain his seat. His third campaign was particularly grueling, facing a nationally prominent broadcaster-opponent who was backed by the then incumbent mayor, two major religious groups, and a game-show host at the height of his popularity.
But Biazon is grateful for his stint in Congress for teaching him many lessons, first what he calls the “art of compromise”; second, to “never take issues personally”; and third, that “people engagement is a tool to either get things done in government or for your constituents to like you.”
For his constituents, he labored for the successful in-city relocation of around 8,000 families living near the railways to an area now known as Southville 3. He also initiated IT projects in schools, resulting in the Division of City Schools of Muntinlupa being the first Technology-Intensified Instruction-Certified Division under the supervision of the Department of Education. For this accomplishment, and for enabling free Internet connectivity in all high schools in Muntinlupa for five years, he was recognized by the DepEd as an outstanding congressman “in the use of congressional funds for education projects.”
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After narrowly losing in the Senate race of 2013, Biazon accepted an appointment from President Aquino as commissioner of the Bureau of Customs, then as now bedeviled by charges of corruption and connivance with smugglers.
Although a reluctant appointee, he set about reforming the BOC, implementing the “Enhanced Cargo Transit System,” and enabling the bureau to track in real-time the movement of container vans in the face of the controversy over so-called “missing vans” that had left the ports.
With the help of the World Bank, he also updated the BOC Strategic Plan to align with the P-Noy administration’s reform agenda, while upgrading the bureau’s computerized cargo clearance system.
It was also Biazon who first lobbied for the passage of the customs modernization bill to make the Philippines compliant with world customs administration standards and allowed the BOC to update policies and procedures to streamline the bureau’s operations and lessen “human intervention” in carrying out its policies.
Clearly, the speed and manner of his departure from the BOC still stings. But while questioning how his many accomplishments at the bureau were obscured under the fog of baseless charges and intrigue, he takes it all in stride as yet another learning experience in the field of government.
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So why does Biazon want to return to Congress?
Because he feels he has so much more to offer the people of Muntinlupa, he implies. “I offer my 24 years of experience in government service, 18 of which were in legislation, nine years as a senior staff in the Senate and nine years as a member of Congress.”
In addition: “I have a track record of legislative performance where I was not only able to file bills and pass laws, but also actively participated in legislative activities like committee hearings, plenary session and debates.”
In seeking to return to the House as Muntinlupa representative, Biazon is not seeking to perpetuate his “hold” on his home district. Rather, his aim is to continue to serve the people of the city, for whose welfare, as both his father’s staff and congressional representative, he devoted almost all his adult life, with no regrets but with lots of gratitude for lessons learned.