Duterte: It’s hard to rid BOC of graft
Corruption is so rampant at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) that it may not be eradicated at all, whoever heads it, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday night as he defended his order to put the agency under temporary control of the military.
The President said the agency, recently wracked by the alleged smuggling of P11 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) through the Port of Manila had fallen into “anarchy.”
“Whoever you place there, there’s always corruption,” the Philippines said in a speech in Puerto Princesa City.
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, amid the drug smuggling scandal.
Law and order
He, however, named Lapeña as head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, a Cabinet position.
Responding to criticisms of his controversial order for a military “takeover” of the BOC, the President explained that he only asked the military to help maintain law and order in the agency.
“When you call the military to help, you are not appointing them to any position, neither are you designating them with specific functions,” he said, responding to criticism that his order would run counter to a constitutional prohibition on the assignment of soldiers in active service to civilian posts in the government.
“What do soldiers know about ledgers and journals? They are there to keep peace because Customs is an anarchy,” the President said.
He earlier admitted that he ordered the “militarization” of the BOC, but later softened up, denying he ordered the military to take over jobs at the agency.
He added that he placed only section chiefs on “floating status,” and that the employees would keep their jobs.
On Saturday, the President reiterated that his order did not amount to a militarization of the bureau.
“Corruption is that bad. That’s why I dismantled the Customs. And that’s not militarization,” he said.
The President lashed back at his critics, accusing them of grandstanding.
“When you call out the Armed Forces to help, these politicians, some senators . . . They only know how to make themselves look good. But they know nothing. Their words are empty,” he added.
He ordered Guerrero to rid the agency of corruption with the help of technical personnel from the military.
The President said the BOC was also rocked by allegations of corruption even on the watch of Commissioner Ruffy Biazon in the Aquino administration.
“Even Customs [Commissioner] Biazon back then. Didn’t he end up with cases?” he said.
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