President Duterte himself should head BOC – Macalintal
Updated @ 12:14 a.m., Oct. 31, 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte should take over the Bureau of Customs (BOC) instead of calling out the military to rid the agency of corruption, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said on Tuesday.
Macalintal questioned the legality of the President ’s decision to put the BOC temporarily under military control, saying the Constitution, in Article VII, Section 18, allows the President to call the military out only to suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.
“For sure, smuggling and irregularities in the BOC could not be considered violence, invasion or rebellion to justify calling to action our Armed Forces,” 0Macalintal said.
The Constitution also states that no member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in active service may be appointed to a civilian position in the government, he said, referring to Article XVI, Section 5, of the 1987 Constitution.
Executive Order No. 292, issued in 1987 by then President Corazon Aquino, also prohibits the appointment of members of the military in active service to civilian offices in the government, including state-owned and -controlled corporations.
‘State of lawlessness’
Defending the President’s decision, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said “a state of lawlessness” stemming from corruption and smuggling illegal drugs through the ports had prompted the President to order the military to take over the BOC.
Panelo pointed out that the President declared a state of lawlessness following a deadly bombing in his hometown, Davao City, in 2016, and that under the Constitution, the President could call out the military to deal with lawless violence.
He said the corruption at the BOC and the smuggling of “shabu,” or crystal meth, worth P11 billion through the Port of Manila in July constituted lawless violence, as these violated the law.
“If you can bring in hundreds of kilos of drugs, there must be some grave wrong in that area. There is a state of lawlessness there. It violates the law, it violates the Constitution,” Panelo said.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, he said, states that the government’s prime duty is to serve and protect the people.
The President’s order would not violate the constitutional prohibition because soldiers would not be appointed to civilian positions in the BOC.
“These people will be there, first, to make their presence felt, to create the military presence and hopefully will intimidate those corrupt people there. No. 2, to assist them,” Panelo said.
He likened the situation in the BOC to traffic on the roads — chaotic when there were no policemen but orderly when cops were in sight.
Panelo’s explanation was a turnaround from his statement on Monday that soldiers would first observe BOC employees at work to learn how things were done and then they would eventually take over the work.
On Tuesday, Panelo said soldiers would handle the job themselves only if the new customs commissioner, Rey Leonardo Guerrero, a former AFP chief of staff, saw a need for it.
In announcing his decision on Sunday, the President ordered all BOC employees to report to Malacañang and directed the Army, Navy and Coast Guard to provide staff to the agency.
The Coast Guard said on Tuesday that it was scouting for a team that could be deployed to the BOC.
Panelo said that with Guerrero at the helm and with soldiers there to help him, there was hope the BOC could finally be cleansed.
But Macalintal said smuggling and other illegalities would go on at the BOC no matter who was appointed to head the agency.
“President Duterte’s taking over the BOC could be the ultimate test whether or not irregularities could be resolved or prevented,” Macalintal said.
If corruption at the BOC persisted despite the President’s presence there, he said, “we can say goodbye to our quest for a clean and honest government in the Bureau of Customs.” —With a report from Jovic Yee
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