Trillanes, Lacson skeptical about military takeover of BOC
Endemic corruption at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) may only infect the Armed Forces of the Philippines, opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said on Wednesday, as he slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to put the agency temporarily under military control.
Trillanes said the AFP was an organization “trained primarily to deal with national security threats and not to collect customs duties.”
Lesson from the 1960s
“This will not work. Worse, the endemic corruption at the BOC might even contaminate the AFP,” Trillanes said in a statement.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, made a similar point on Monday, citing a “lesson” from the 1960s when idealistic military officers were tapped to run the customs bureau.
“In the early 1960s, some young, idealistic AFP officers were put in charge of the BOC operations. They learned fast, they couldn’t be bribed or intimidated. The smugglers used equally young, beautiful women to influence them. The rest is history we don’t want to remember,” Lacson said on Twitter.
The point, Lacson said, is that smuggling syndicates, especially those smuggling illegal drugs, would employ all tricks to pursue their nefarious activities.
The President announced on Sunday that he was putting the BOC temporarily under military control, days after he replaced Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, a former police official, with Rey Leonardo Guerrero, administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority and a former AFP chief of staff.
The President made the decision after Lapeña acknowledged that more than 1 ton of “shabu” (crystal meth) had slipped into the country through Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) in July, possibly with the connivance of BOC employees.
The smuggling was discovered by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in August, with the recovery from a warehouse in Cavite province of four magnetic lifters that the agency learned later had contained 1.6 tons of shabu worth P11 billion.
Critics denounced the President’s decision as unconstitutional and contrary to state policy of civilian supremacy.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Wednesday that he was not consulted by the President.
“It’s just the decision of the President,” Lorenzana told reporters.
He said the Department of National Defense, which celebrated its 79th anniversary on Wednesday, was studying how the President’s order could be implemented.
Third BOC chief
The President swore in Guerrero in Davao City on Tuesday and told him to run the BOC with “double the zealousness” he had when he headed the military, Malacañang said in statement on Wednesday.
“When you were in the Army, the people feared you because you were strict. Double the zealousness and maybe you’d have a better chance of retiring unscathed,” the Palace quoted Mr. Duterte as telling Guerrero.
Guerrero is the President’s third customs chief, after Lapeña and former Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, who was forced to resign last year amid a scandal involving the smuggling of shabu worth P6.4 billion through the Port of Manila.
The President told Guerrero that he could replace BOC employees with security forces, the Palace said.
Guerrero took office on Wednesday but did not immediately shake up the BOC.
He said the employees could keep their jobs while he was assessing the situation at the agency.
As for the scope of the military’s job at the BOC, he said it was a matter that he expected to discuss with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III later Wednesday. —With a report from Jaymee T. Gamil
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.