By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang defended outgoing Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña anew from criticisms which stemmed from the P11-billion shabu shipment which slipped past the country’s ports in August.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after President Duterte announced that he will be moving Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and replace the latter with former Army chief Rey Guerrero.
In a statement, Panelo maintained that there are forces behind Lapeña’s downfall in the BOC, the agency earlier reported as the most corrupt government agency in the country.
“We maintain that drug syndicates, in cahoots with the bureau’s corrupt officials and employees, are behind the ongoing vilification campaign against Mr. Isidro Lapeña,” he said.
The Palace official said that it is no secret that there are many corrupt people inside the bureau but Lapeña managed to get through it without being swallowed by the system.
“It is common knowledge that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is a corrupt-infested bureau and this cannot be denied even by past administrations,” Panelo said.
“Notwithstanding the nefarious practices which besiege the bureau, Mr. Lapeña managed it untainted and instituted several reform initiatives resulting in a substantial increase in its revenue collection that even surpassed its given targets,” he added.
According to Panelo, appointing officials is still under President Duterte’s prerogative, noting that Lapeña promotion as TESDA chief means that the Chief Executive still trusts the former police general.
“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) continues to have the complete trust and confidence on the competence and integrity of incoming Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director-General Lapeña,” he said.
Lapeña is the second Customs chief under the Duterte administration who was tainted with a drug-smuggling incident, the first one being former Marine captain Nicanor Faeldon. Both of them were transferred to different agencies — Faeldon to the Office of the Civil Defense and now to the Bureau of Corrections.