Drilon wants to scrap history in the name of vanity


Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon always achieves things with the use of political muscle and bullying. Anybody who steps in his way gets a taste of his fury.

That was what former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon experienced three years ago when he complained that Drilon had forced him to sign an illegal agreement for a restoration project for the Iloilo Customs House.

Drilon got Faeldon to agree that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to do a structural and aesthetic make-over of the historical building and turn it into a museum.

“There’s nothing illegal about it,” Drilon asserted.

Iloilo Customs House in 1917

Under the plan, the ground floor of the Iloilo Customs House would be turned into a maritime museum. The Iloilo Customs would occupy just the second floor. The Philippine Postal Service also occupies a portion of the ground floor.

Drilon gave assurances the Bureau of Customs personnel would not be ejected from the building.

But the liar in Drilon is once again revealed.

Later this month, on April 21, the Bureau of Customs will be moving out of the building and transfer to rented office space 3 kilomters from the port area. Naturally, there is grumbling among the Customs officials and personnel. They just couldn’t express their sentiments publicly for fear that Drilon would go after them. Drilon has zero tolerance for people who disagree with him.

The Iloilo Customs House today.

From his original plan to utilize only the ground floor for a maritime museum, Drilon wants the entire building for his grandiose and delusional “legacy” project. Because Drilon knows how to flex his political muscle and pull the right strings, the BOC will spend P500,000 a month to rent the old STI building near the Iloilo Mission Hospital in Jaro, Iloilo City.

There is no logic in Drilon’s agenda. Why would the government spend half a million pesos every month to rental office space far from the place of business of the Customs bureau? What kind of museum does he intend to put in that building? Legacy? It’s vanity.

The Customs House is part of Iloilo’s history. It stood witness to the growth and development of Iloilo, which gained international prominence in trade and commerce, starting when it exported locally-produced textiles to European markets. Where it stands beside the Iloilo River, the Customs House was where shippers and traders converged each time a vessel docks at the port. In its halls, customs officials diligently collected duties on goods going through the Iloilo port.

Indeed, customs buildings are a prominent fixture in all major ports around the world. A customs house needs to be close to where the busy shipping traffic is, if only because of the practicality of being proximate to its clientele. There is no customs house that is deep inland. As much as practicable, these buildings are always at the edge of the port area.

Drilon is so obsessed with leaving a stamp of his name in Iloilo even if these projects are burdened by issues of corruption. He has become so unreasonable that he will sacrifice the efficiency of customs operations to get what he wants done.

Customs personnel are apprehensive this will adversely affect their work. And if Drilon does get his way, the history of Iloilo will be drastically changed forever. His vanity will triumph over public service.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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