Open drug shipments by force

Published November 1, 2018, 2:25 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Genalyn Kabiling

The military will be allowed to “forcibly open” suspected drug shipments passing through the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and even throw them into the sea, President Duterte revealed Wednesday.

President Duterte (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)
President Duterte

“I told the Chief of Staff of the Army to open everything and to throw it in the sea if they’re not contented just to avoid any more issues. Tell them, we’ll pay them tomorrow. Why should we take that risk?”Duterte said during a visit to Cagayan de Oro last Wednesday.

“But I said do it randomly or forcibly open everything. They will really do it. You know, that’s why I like military men,” he added.

The President gave the green light to the random inspection of containers as he bared plans for the purchase of additional x-ray machines for a more effective detection of smuggled drugs and other contraband.

Dutertehad earlier authorized the military to take over the operations of the Customs bureau after a large shabu shipment slipped past the country’s ports. But newly installed Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero clarified at his assumption rites Tuesday, that military men in the BOC will be there for support, not militarization.

The President said said new x-ray equipment must be purchased to efficiently screen an average of 7,000 containers passing the country’s ports. Soldiers would undergo training on how to operate these security machines, he added.

“The best thing to do here is to buy another x-ray machine to be able to thoroughly inspect the 7,000 containers,” Duterte said.

While he believes the integrity of former Customs commissioners Isidro Lapeña and NicanorFaeldon, Duterte admitted that shabu shipment must have slipped past the former officials due to the daunting task of inspecting thousands of containers everyday.

“Why is it that many entered into shabu?…Why they managed to get away with it? Everyday they inspect an average of 7,000 containers. Sometimes it’s stupidity, other times it’s intentional. That’s why they manage to get away with it,” he said.

Some groups had earlier criticized the President for his alleged unlawful order to call out the military to take over the BOC and occupy civilian posts.

But the President has defended his decision to tap the military to assist in customs operations, saying this was aimed at fighting corruption.

Earlier, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo argued that a state of lawlessness has gripped the BOC that prompted the President to call out the military to suppress the threat.

Panelo acknowledged that corruption and drug smuggling hounding the Customs bureau constituted “lawless violence,” saying these activities violate the law and endanger public security.

Pre-shipment inspection pushed

Meanwhile, House Assistant Majority Leader and BagongHenerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy on Thursday proposed the pre-shipment inspection, valuation, and appraisal of all imports before they are sent to the Philippines as “effective” way to clean up the operations of the BOC.

Herrera-Dy noted that during Congress’ deliberation on what is now the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, the pre-shipment solution was “rejected by the Customs bureau, importers, and smugglers.”

“When those three sectors agree to reject something that makes perfect sense as a solution, that already says a lot,” she said in a statement.

“There are different world-class customs inspection service providers out there and we just have to find the right match for the Philippines,” she said, citing that the government had hired the SocieteGenerale de Surveillance SA before, but that relationship turned sour when they got entangled in a legal battle.

Herrera-Dy, a member of the House Committed on Ways and Means, said she understands President Duterte’s predicament with the BOC.

“He needed the fastest quick fix he could find and for that he turned to the military as a temporary solution,” she said.

She cited the need to turn over “the day-to-day management of Customs to whichever firm or consortium gets the customs inspection management contract.” (With a report from Charissa L. Atienza)