Military control of Customs still follows civilian supremacy rule - DOJ chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 29 2018 10:20 AM | Updated as of Oct 29 2018 11:23 AM

MANILA - (UPDATE) The temporary takeover of military personnel at the Bureau of Customs as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte does not violate the civilian supremacy rule, his justice secretary said Monday.

As chief executive, Duterte "has the power of supervision and control over the entire Executive Dept, and is duty-bound to ensure that all laws be faithfully executed," said Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

"Putting the Bureau of Customs under the watchful eye of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is a temporary measure to ensure that massive entry of illegal drugs, which threatens public safety, is immediately stopped," he said in a statement.

Guevarra noted that the bureau is to be headed by former AFP Chief-of-Staff Rey Guerrero, "who is now a civilian."

Pressed if this would violate the civilian supremacy rule, Guevarra told ABS-CBN News: "Certainly not, because the BOC chief is a civilian; the BOC is under the DOF; and the DOF is under the President."

The Constitution provides that civilian authority is "at all times, supreme over the military," even as it recognized the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the protector of the people and the State, whose goal is to secure state sovereignty and integrity of the national territory.

In a speech on Sunday, Duterte said there "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."

Last week, Duterte assigned Guerrero to replace Lapeña, a former senior police official and head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, as the Customs commissioner.

Lapeña, who was accused of ignoring a report regarding drugs contained in magnetic lifters that went past the Customs, was then given a Cabinet Secretary position as director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Senator Francis Escudero said under the Constitution, the President, as Commander-in-Chief, can only call out the military to "prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion."

"These factors are not attendant at the Bureau of Customs," he said in a tweet.

He said Duterte might have wanted the AFP "to assist in the law enforcement function" of the bureau, which "can be done as with other law enforcement activities."

Duterte said his decision to have the military take over the positions in Customs was part of his declaration of a state of lawlessness in the country about 2 years ago.

The president made the announcement in September 2016 following an explosion in his hometown of Davao City that claimed the lives of 14 people and left more than 60 others injured.

- report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News