Robredo: Militarizing BOC not the solution
It is “against the Constitution” to order the military to take over the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Vice President Leni Robredo reminded President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday.
“It is clear in the Constitution that our government is a civilian government,” Robredo said on her radio program.
“When you say the military will take over Customs, this is wrong. This is contrary to the Constitution, because first of all, the military has a set of obligations and this is not included,” she added.
Article XVI, Section 5(4) of the 1987 Constitution provides that “no member of the armed forces in the active service shall, at any time, be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the government.”
Obeying without questions
Robredo said it was as if the President wanted the BOC militarized because soldiers tended to follow orders without question.
“This seems bothering… It’s bothering, because not everything is helped by there being no questions, especially if the order is wrong,” she said.
Robredo also pointed out that the Duterte administration had not gone after the groups involved in the smuggling of “shabu” (crystal meth) worth P6.4 billion in May 2017 and the possible entry into the country of the same illegal drug worth P11 billion in July.
She said BOC officials were being replaced “without assessing why these things have been happening.”
“Even if we keep replacing the people, if the system is there allowing this extreme corruption to happen, we should be looking at the system: What needs to be changed? I think, this should be paid attention to, not militarization,” Robredo said.
The President put the BOC under temporary military control last week to clean up the corruption-plagued agency.
Soldiers can’t be corrupted
One reason for the decision is that soldiers cannot be corrupted.
The President replaced Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, a former police official, with Rey Leonardo Guerrero, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Guerrero has not shaken up the BOC, allowing the employees to keep their jobs while he assesses the situation to decide exactly what role the military will play in the running of the agency.
On Sunday, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo warned traders against circumventing customs rules by bribing BOC employees.
“Our reminder is for everyone to follow our laws. Do not attempt to bribe anyone because you will certainly end up in jail,” Panelo said in a radio interview. —With a report from Julie M. Aurelio
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