Sunday, October 28, 2018

President Duterte temporarily puts Customs under military control

President Rodrigo Duterte / courtesy of Presidential photos

Manila, Philippines - President Rodrigo Duterte has authorized the military forces to take over the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to clean up the corruption-laden agency and prevent the smuggling of illegal drugs and other contraband from entering the country.

Angry by the “dirty games” in the customs bureau, the president said that he would let the soldiers with technical expertise take the place of customs personnel placed on “floating status” to sustain operations of the bureau.

“I’d like to put on notice everybody in the Bureau of Customs they are all floating status. They will, they can maybe start again working but I said they are on floating status,” the chief executive said on Sunday during the birthday celebration of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in Davao City

“They will be replaced all — all of them — by military men. It will be a takeover of the Armed Forces in the matter of operating in the meantime while we are sorting out how to effectively meet the challenges of corruption in this country,” the president said

This sudden change was announced by the president few days after he removed Isidro Lapeña as customs chief following the huge shabu shipment that allegedly slipped past the ports.

Lapeña has been replaced by Maritime Industry Authority head Rey Leonardo Guerrero, a former chief of the Armed Forces, while the former customs chief was instead transferred to Technical Education and Skills Development Authority with a Cabinet rank.

During his remarks on Cayetano’s birthday celebration, the president asked Guerrero to take soldiers from the Army, Navy and Air Force to run the customs operations - that includes X-ray security systems.

“There will be about three signatures before a container will eventually be declared out of customs control so there will be about three, six eyes there. And they must sign that it could be a Navy or a Coast Guard, something like that,” he said

For the meantime, the president ordered the customs employees, including the customs police and intelligence units, “in floating status” to report to his office.

“I am ordering everybody to report to my office. Maybe I’ll issue the memorandum. I do not ha — yeah, I have yet to sign it. They will — they will hold office there at the Malacañang gymnasium,” he said, admitting that he cannot simply dismiss the employees as part of due process.