MANILA - Sen. Richard Gordon on Wednesday warned President Rodrigo Duterte against appointing military men in the Bureau of Customs (BOC), saying they might be "raising funds" for an ouster plot.
“I sometimes wonder about the wisdom of sending PMA (Philippine Military Academy) graduates to a place that is a cesspool of corruption. The wisdom of putting in military, especially a group of Magdalo that has set at least two coup d'etat in our country, is that wise?” Gordon said in interpellating Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who delivered a privilege speech on corruption in the Bureau of Customs.
At least three prominent members of the Magdalo group- soldiers who staged a mutiny against the government in 2003- held positions at the BOC.
These were former Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, Customs Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala, and former Import Assessment Services (IAS) director Milo Maestrecampo.
Faeldon has been relieved, while Maestrecampo has resigned.
Duterte has appointed Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Isidro Lapeña, a former police general, to take Faeldon's place.
“So we can say that the President must be very, very careful in appointing because he has a tendency to appoint a lot of our friends in the military, and now you have General Lapeña, who I also consider an upright man. I think he was appointed not just for Customs but to principally stop the drug flow,” he added.
Gordon said there was a possibility that former military men in the BOC might have been raising funds for another attempt to overthrow the government.
“First of all, it’s not every day that they could be raising money for a political party like Magdalo. Is there any danger that they could be raising money to buy arms for another coup? I mean the imagination can go wild and with all this. So it goes into [the] judgment of the President,” said the senator, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Customs officials are under fire for alleged gross incompetence for failing to stop the entry of P6.4-billion worth of illicit drugs from China.
This has triggered separate investigations at the Senate and the House of Representatives, where a customs broker identified officials he has allegedly bribed.