Duterte: Military to take over Customs

Photo by Simeon Celi Jr/Presidential photo

By Robert Vergara/CNN Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will take over the Bureau of Customs (BOC), as all employees of the agency are on a floating status.

“I’d like to put on notice, everybody in the Bureau of Customs, they are all [on] floating status, they can maybe start again working, but as I said said they are [on] floating status,” Duterte said in his speech during the birthday celebration of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano in Davao City.

“They will be replaced, all of them, by military men. It will be a takeover of the armed forces in the matter of operating in the mean time while we are sorting out how to effectively meet the challenges of corruption in this country,” he added.

Duterte said he had asked Customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero to request the provider of X-ray machines at the BOC to train the technical personnel of the AFP.

“I call Jagger (Guererro) and said you might want to talk to your boss, Finance secretary, ask him if the guys who supplied the X-ray can send a representative here to teach our technical men in the armed forces,” he said.

The President said he will issue a memorandum requiring all Customs employees to report directly to him.

“The Customs intelligence unit, they are to report to Malacañang, all of them. I’m ordering everybody to report to my office. Maybe I’ll issue the memorandum, I have yet to sign it. They will hold office there at the Malacañang Gymnasium. Lahat,” he said.

Duterte said he cannot immediately dismiss everyone working at the bureau as he wants to follow the law.

“That’s the reason why we cannot just dismiss them. Almost all of them there have been charged of corruption, lahat yan sila may kaso and yet we cannot just move on because we want to be lawfully correct. Dahan-dahan lang tayo,” he said.

“But with this kind of dirty games that they’re playing I’m forced now to ask the armed forces to take over,” he added.

The organizational shakeup, Duterte explained, is in line with his declaration of a state of lawlessness in the country during the early part of his term as the president.

“Remember I have issued, during the first days of my term, this is the declaration of lawlessness. Part of the lawless elements is there inside the Bureau of Customs,” he said.

This development comes amid the controversies hounding the BOC regarding the multi-billion peso worth of illegal drugs that slipped into the country last month.

Authorities in August found magnetic lifters in Cavite believed to have contained shabu worth P11 billion. This happened just after 500 kilograms of shabu were intercepted in two other magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Port.

Duterte last week replaced Isidro Lapeña as the head of the bureau amid controversies over shabu worth billions of pesos that slipped past the agency under his watch. The President assigned him to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. Guerrero, formerly a Maritime Industry Authority administrator and Armed Forces Chief of Staff, took over the position.

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