By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte has ordered the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to work together in addressing the country’s problem on illegal drugs.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement following the recent development on the missing P11-billion shabu shipment which slipped past the country’s ports last August which led to the major revamp in the BOC.
In an interview, Panelo said that Duterte’s marching order to the two agency was to put a stop to the illegal drug trade, the backbone of the former Davao City mayor’s campaign which catapulted him to the presidency.
“They will be working hand-in-hand in eradicating the drug menace in the country – kasi iyon ang marching orders ni Presidente eh (because that is the marching order of the President), we need to stop at all cost,” he said.
Earlier, Duterte told the BOC and PDEA to stop blaming each other regarding the said shabu fiasco. Malacañang said there is no rift between the two agencies.
“Hindi naman sila nag-aaway, sinasabi lang nila para sa kanilang pananaw, iyong kanilang pag-iimbestiga (There’s no rift. They are just saying what they think is the case here, how they are investigating it),” Panelo said.
“Kung iyon ang predicate mo, ‘di gawin mo ang lahat para ma-stop mo, makuha mo iyong kumakalat na shabung nakaalpas (If that is your predicate, then do everything to get to the bottom of it and find the drugs that got past),” he added.
Outgoing Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña also earlier said that there is no bad blood between the BOC and the PDEA as they are jointly investigating the issue.
Lapeña earlier maintained that there was no drugs in the four magnetic lifters found in GMA, Cavite. His stand was supported by the President but last week, the former police general changed his tune when the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said that the lifters were designed to conceal whatever it has inside.
This recent development in the prompted Duterte to move Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) as its director-general. Malacañang said that Lapeña was eyed to be placed in TESDA even before the shabu mess but the early announcement was made to spare Lapeña from further criticism.
Duterte then appointed former Army chief Rey Guerrero to the BOC and ordered all Customs executives out of the picture. The President then tapped the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in some military men to do Customs duties.