By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang found nothing irregular with President Duterte’s decision to let the military temporarily take over the operations of the Bureau of Customs (BoC).
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President has control over the executive offices and is allowed by the Constitution to tap the Armed Focus to assist the customs bureau.
“The Constitution provides that the President is the head of government, head of state and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Now the Constitution also provides that he has control over all executive offices and BoC is one of them,” he said during a Palace press briefing.
“With respect to being the commander-in-chief, he is authorized under the law to direct the movements of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in any manner he deems it fit,” he added.
The President earlier gave the green light to the military takeover of the customs bureau in an effort to clean up the corruption-ridden agency and combat smuggling operations. Duterte said soldiers with technical expertise would replace the customs personnel placed on floating status following reports huge shabu shipment slipped past the country’s ports.
Panelo explained that the designation of the AFP personnel to the customs bureau was only temporary. In making the decision, he admitted the President was “disgusted” by the drug smuggling controversy.
Asked how long the military control over BoC will take,Panelo said: “Until it is necessary, until the President is satisfied that everything is in order at that Bureau.
“The underlying principle of this governance is the principle or the directive of the Constitution that he will protect and serve the citizenry. And in that regard, necessarily included there would be the maintenance of peace and order, you secure the citizenry and you try to preserve all the laws and enforce them if there is any violation then has to do something about it,” he said.
Panelo said one week was enough for the soldiers to learn the ropes in the BOC to ensure smooth operations. He said the soldiers would first assist the customs personnel and eventually take over their respective posts.
“I don’t think it will take time to learn the ropes of the game in any particular bureau. I think one week would be long to learn what you should be doing there. It’s administrative work, so if you are intelligent enough you will learn fast,” he said.
He said newly appointed Customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero would be given leeway to choose the soldiers with technical expertise to serve in the customs agency.
He added that the President believes in the integrity and competence of Guerrero to perform his duties as new head of the BOC.
“He trusts him and his experience with the person that will head this bureau seems to indicate that he could be a very good bureau chief of graft-ridden bureau,” he said.
The Maritime Industry Authority chair replaces Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña who has been transferred to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).