By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang is optimistic that the Bureau of Customs (BoC) will finally be cleansed of corruption and drug smuggling activities amid the latest reorganization ordered by President Duterte.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo noted that the President has appointed former military chief Rey Guerrero as the new Customs chief as well as authorized the military to oversee the customs operations to clean up the bureau.
“With former General Rey Guerrero as our Customs Commissioner, coupled with the assistance of AFP Chief-of-Staff Carlito Galvez and his men, we are hopeful that the BOC will be finally cleansed from corruption and drug-related activities,” Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo also allayed concerns raised by critics that the President’s order to the military was unconstitutional. He made clear that no soldier would be appointed or designated to civilian positions in the customs bureau.
Article 16, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution states no member of the armed forces in the active service shall, at any time, be appointed or designated in any capacity to a civilian position in the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations or any of their subsidiaries.
“In any case, the subject prohibition will not be violated. Active members of the AFP will not be appointed or designated to civilian positions in the BOC,” Panelo said.
“They will be assigned to the BOC to oversee that all operations are in order and ensure that all laws are strictly enforced in all processes undertaken therein,” he added.
Panelo also hit back at critics complaining about the President’s action in the BoC, saying they should first understand certain principles about the country’s laws.
“These critics demand decisive actions from the Administration but are more than quick to complain once a resolute decision has been reached by the President,” he said.
“Before they criticize, they should first understand a rudimentary principle in statutory construction that a law, or even the Constitution, must not be read in truncated parts,” he said.
He said the Supreme Court previously ruled that “a statute’s clauses and phrases must not be taken as detached and isolated expressions, but the whole and every part thereof must be considered in fixing the meaning of any of its parts in order to produce a harmonious whole.”
Panelo explained that the government has the duty to serve and protect and the people under Article 2, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution.
“Being the principal and most important mission of the government, the President, as head thereof, cannot just turn his back to this constitutional command and actively succumb to another provision found in the same instrument,” he said.
“The President cannot be held hostage by a provision produced as a repercussion of the bygone days and ignore his main constitutional duty of leading the government in serving and protecting the people,” he added.