Senators question Lapena’s transfer to Tesda
Some senators on Friday frowned at Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña’s transfer to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
Senator Joel Villanueva, who headed Tesda during the past administration, said Lapeña’s appointment to the agency was “surprising.”
“It’s the prerogative of the President to select his Cabinet. However, the appointment of Lapeña, similar to Faeldon seems to reflect the lack of accountability, especially if the banner campaign is against drugs,” Villanueva said in a text message to reporters.
He was referring to former BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, who resigned from his post amid the P6.4-billion drug shipment controversy at the bureau under his watch.
Faeldon was later appointed as deputy administrator III at the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), and is now the head of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
“We will not be able to address our drug problem if we will not curtail the supply of drugs. Tons of drugs entered the country under their watch. They should be made accountable, not promoted,” Villanueva added.
Lapeña may consider his transfer a promotion in rank, but for Senator Panfilo Lacson, “It is definitely a demotion in trust and confidence.”
“It’s a pity because save for the big shabu shipment that got away, apparently due to collusion between the drug syndicate and some low level customs officials, he was doing a good job proven by consistently exceeding the bureau’s target collections,” Lacson said of Lapeña in a separate text message.
“Having said that, the President has once again shown zero tolerance as far as his war on drugs is concerned,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced Lapena’s transfer to Tesda in the wake of another controversy hounding the BOC, involving the reported P11 billion worth of smuggled shabu.
“ As regards his qualifications as Tesda Director General, I guess we had the same apprehension when he took over BOC but he delivered. Unfortunately, napalusutan siya ng ilang tauhan niya,” Lacson said.
Villanueva and Lacson are members of the majority bloc in the Senate.
Opposition senators also questioned Lapeña’s appointment to Tesda.
“When incompetence or corruption go unpunished and those linked to irregularities are rewarded with other top-level posts, then both incompetence and corruption will just get worse,” Senator Francis Pangilinan said.
“It also places in doubt the sincerity and seriousness of the administration in its campaigns against corruption and illegal drugs,” he added.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, for his part, questioned the motive behind Lapeña’s “promotion” as new Tesda head.
“Kasi kung magaling pala at tiwala sa kanya, bakit nya tatanggalin sa Customs? Ngayon, kung palpak nga o kasabwat sa pagpasok ng droga, bakit nya ipo-promote? Para sa isang presidenteng nagpapanggap na galit sa droga, bakit nya aarborin ang opisyal na nagpapasok ng 11 billion-peso shabu shipment?” Trillanes asked in a statement.
“The only possible explanation is, Duterte is doing this to reward Comm. Lapeña’s loyalty and guarantee his silence and continued cooperation, much like what he did to Faeldon. Both ex-Customs commissioners surely know the true masterminds behind those huge shabu shipments,” he said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, said Lapeña’s appointment to Tesda, even after the P11 billion worth of shabu slipped into the country under his watch, clearly showed that the Duterte administration is a “recycling bin for the corrupt and incompetent.”
“That President Duterte continues to express ‘trust’ in Lapeña despite his gross failings and the suspicion of corruption is a clear indication that this government is not interested in holding people to the standards of accountability,” Hontivero said.
“This is not an administration of the best and the brightest. This is not a government with the best interests of the country at heart. This is a regime of questionable characters and even more questionable competence,” she added.
Lapeña’s transfer, she said, was a “grave insult to the spirit of the civil service” and exposes the Duterte government’s campaign against illegal drugs and corruption as “a total sham.” /kga
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