Sunday, October 28, 2018

Legality of military 'takeover' of Customs questioned by some senators

Combined photos of senators Chiz Escudero, Leila De Lima and Risa Hontiveros / photo from Google

Manila, Philippines - So far, according to reports, at least three senators have questioned the legality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to let the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) temporarily take over the corruption-laden Bureau of Customs.

In a tweet on Monday, Senator Chiz Escudero said the shabu shipment estimated to be worth up to ₱11 billion which allegedly slipped past Customs’s scrutiny does not constitute lawless violence, invasion and rebellion, which would allow the president to call out the military support as stated in the Constitution.

"Perhaps what [President Duterte] meant was for the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to assist in the law enforcement function of the Bureau of Customs which, to a certain degree can be done as with other law enforcement activities where the AFP has been called upon to assist the PNP (Philippine National Police)," Escudero said.

Meanwhile, opposition senator Risa Hontiveros, also pointed out that Article XVI, Section 5(4) of the Constitution blocks members of the military to be appointed or designated in civilian positions in the government.

"By openly pushing for the military takeover of a civilian agency, President Duterte is violating the constitutional principle of the supremacy of civilian authority over the military. What's stopping the President from ordering a military takeover of other government agencies as well?"  the lady senator said in a statement.

"This is backdoor dictatorship. Galawang diktador, pasimpleng martial law. Kagaya kung paano nalusutan ang sambayanan ng bilyon-bilyong pisong shabu, ngayon naman, pasimpleng inilulusot ni Pangulong Duterte ang kanyang martial law," she said.

Fellow opposition senator Leila De Lima also raised the same concern, saying that “AFP to take over the Bureau of Customs sets a dangerous precedent.”

 “It normalizes the unconstitutional act of granting the military civilian functions and power over civilian offices.” De Lima added

Meanwhile, Senate Blue Ribbon committee chair Richard Gordon said that the president is right in ordering the military to "take over" the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

"The fact of the matter is the main door of the country is being used to bring large, large, large quantities of drugs, and that constitutes lawless violence," Gordon reportedly told CNN Philippines.