Duterte temporarily puts Bureau of Customs under military control

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 29 2018 12:00 AM | Updated as of Oct 29 2018 09:42 AM

All Customs employees to report directly to Malacañang

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte has put the Bureau of Customs (BOC) under the control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

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The President said he will ask the AFP to temporarily take over the BOC.

"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 meantime, while we are sorting out how to effectively meet the challenges of corruption in this country," Duterte said.

"With these kinds of games they are playing, dirty games, I am forced now to ask the Armed Forces to take over," he added.

Duterte also said all of the employees of the BOC will be on floating status and will be required to report directly to the Office of the President.

"I want to put on notice everybody in the Bureau of Customs, they are all in floating status. Maybe start again working, but I said, they are all floating status," he said in a speech during the thanksgiving dinner of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in Davao City.

"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. They will hold office there at the Malacañang Gymnasium. Lahat," Duterte added.

According to Duterte, his decision is part of his declaration of a state of lawlessness in the country back in 2016.

"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.

The President also said that although not everyone working for the BOC is corrupt, he has no time to sort everyone out. Instead, he decided to just remove everyone and just let them go back to the government if they are indeed innocent.

"Alam mo, baka sabihin ni Duterte, hindi naman kami lahat magnanakaw eh. Correct, so very correct. You are right. Not all of you are thieves. But you know, you must be an idiot not to understand. You say that you are honest, that you are not part of the cabal there. And so? If that is your line, I cannot move, and you stay there, and I have to speculate if you are really a gangster working for the Bureau of Customs, a government employee. I do not have the time for that," Duterte explained.

"I'd like them out, then one by one, if they still deserve. If none, then, since I cannot fire them, then I have to file a case, and then appeal after appeal, maybe it could last for another 10 years. And so by that time, we have lost so many billions, and you are destroying my country," he added.

Duterte recently transferred former Customs chief Isidro Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). He was replaced by former Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) administrator Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

The movement comes as Lapeña came under fire after four empty magnetic lifters suspected to have contained shabu were found in Cavite in August.

At the time the magnetic lifters were found in Cavite, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the BOC had just intercepted 500 kilograms of shabu concealed in two other magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Port, raising suspicion that those found empty in Cavite had also contained shabu.

Lapeña initially belied PDEA's allegation then recently backtracked