Palace defends Duterte’s move to field military in graft-ridden Bureau Customs
By Jelly Musico
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte is authorized under the Constitution to ask the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to help the cleansing of graft-ridden Bureau Customs (BOC).
“The Constitution provides that the President is the head of government, the head of state and the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Now, the Constitution also provides that he has control over all executive offices, and BOC is one of them,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
“Now, being the Commander-in-Chief, he is authorized under the law to direct the movements of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and in any manner, he deems it fit,” he added.
In Davao City last Sunday night, Duterte asked the military to replace all the BOC personnel amid probe on the PHP6.8 billion worth of shabu that slipped past the Customs.
Duterte said “dirty games” being played by corrupt Customs personnel have prompted him to ask the AFP to take over the BOC.
“They will be replaced, all of them, by military men. It will be a takeover of the Armed Forces in the matter of operating, in the meantime, while we are sorting out how to effectively meet the challenges of corruption in this country,” Duterte said.
Duterte has also put “everybody” in the BOC in floating status and required them to report directly to the Office of the President.
“There was really a continuous play of corruption in the lower echelons of the Customs Bureau,” Duterte said in his speech during the Thanksgiving dinner of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
Last week, Duterte designated former AFP Chief of Staff and incumbent Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Administrator Rey Leonardo Guerrero to replace Isidro Lapeña as BOC chief.
Lapeña has been given Cabinet position as Director General of the Technical Education and Skills and Development Authority.
Duterte said Lapeña as well as former BOC chief Nicanor Faeldon were victims of rotten system in the BOC.
Panelo said issuances on the BOC major revamp will be “promulgated shortly”.
Meanwhile, Panelo allayed concerns by some sectors particularly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that their “balikbayan” box shipment will be affected especially during Christmas season.
“There is no lull or stoppage of the service provided by the BOC. There will be a continuity of services rendered by them,” Panelo said.
Panelo said the President can choose people with expertise from the AFP.
“As we all know, the members of the AFP are not limited to military work, there are a lot of them, who have taken graduate schools, scholarships with respect to some technical know-how,” he said.
He said the military personnel will also undergo training “to be competent in the field that they would be assigned to”. (PNA)