President orders all Customs commissioners, department heads out
MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he would replace Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief Isidro Lapeña, assigning him instead to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) amid a multibillion-peso drug smuggling controversy.
Duterte made the announcement during the 117th Anniversary Celebration of the Philippine Coast Guard, appointing Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) administrator Rey Leonardo Guerrero in his place.
He said he expects the reshuffling to take effect as as soon as possible.
“General Lapeña will move to TESDA. I will promote you to a Cabinet position. General ‘Jagger’ Guerrero, you are to move to the Bureau of Customs,” Duterte said.
Both Lapeña and Guerrero were at the event.
Lapeña said Duterte’s decision to remove him from the BOC was actually a promotion.
“It’s a way of instituting reforms in the Bureau of Customs and I respect that,” Lapeña told reporters.
“I’m given another job. That’s a promotion, cabinet secretary. I would like to thank the President for another opportunity to serve in another capacity.”
BOC OFFICIALS ‘OUT’
Meanwhile, Duterte told Guerrero he may bring his own personnel to the bureau as he ordered the “freezing” of all current Customs department heads.
The President also announced that all Customs commissioners were “out.”
“Out lahat (Everybody's out). To the last man, the commissioners are out, the department heads are out,” Duterte said.
“Alam ko ayaw niyong umalis sa Marina (I know you don't want to leave Marina)… I know you are reluctant… I know you are happy there and contented, so I’ve heard, but the demands of public servic and the need for honest men requires your presence there,” Duterte told Guerrero.
Guerrero will be the third Customs chief under Duterte, following Lapeña and Bureau of Corrections Chief Nicanor Faeldon.
The TESDA post will be the third for Lapeña under the Duterte administration. Before his stint at the Customs, he was first assigned to lead the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, now headed by Aaron Aquino.
“So Sid, the work in TESDA - it’s quite something of a --- it could be messy at times. But I’m sure your training as a military man just like Jagger would all go well for the country,” Duterte told Lapeña.
TESDA’s previous head, Guiling Mamondiong, recently resigned after filing his certificate of candidacy for Lanao del Sur governor.
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 PDEA and the BOC had just intercepted 500 kilograms of shabu concealed in two other magnetic lifters at the Manila International Container Port (MICP), raising suspicion that those found empty in Cavite had also contained shabu.
Lapeña initially belied PDEA's allegation then recently backtracked.