MANILA - Malacañang on Monday said one week may already be enough for soldiers who will take over the Bureau of Customs to learn how to run the agency, even as critics question whether such a takeover is allowed by the Constitution.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he wants the military to “take over” the Bureau of Customs, days after he appointed Rey Leonardo Guerrero, the country’s former military chief, to the corruption-ridden agency.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assured the public that there will be no disruption in the services of the bureau, saying it will not take long for the military to learn the ropes in the bureau.
“I don’t think it will take time to learn the ropes of the game in any particular bureau. I think one week would be long to learn what you should be doing there. It’s administrative work so all you need really is — if you are intelligent enough you will learn fast,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
Panelo said the military takeover will be “temporary,” but did not specify until when it will be implemented.
“Until it is necessary. Until the president is satisfied that everything is in order in the bureau,” he said.
He said the soldiers will have to be assisted by the very personnel they will replace.
“Eventually they will be taking over the respective positions that these people have right now,” he said.
“In other words, even the paperwork, these would be undertaken by them, but the personnel of the AFP will be there to watch over them while they learn the rules of the game.”
Duterte recently removed Isidro Lapeña as Customs chief after he drew flak over the multi-billion shabu shipment that allegedly slipped past the country’s ports. He also announced that all Customs officials and personnel will be on “floating status.”
The President said he has ordered Guerrero to place soldiers in the Customs’ X-ray division, a crucial unit which screens containers of possible contraband, including illegal drugs.
“The Coast Guard will take care — all Customs police are also on floating status. Everybody,” he said. “There will be about three signatures before a container can be eventually declared out of Customs’ control.”
Duterte said he had no choice but to put erring Customs personnel on floating status because he might violate some laws.
“Almost all of them there have been, in one way or the other, been charged of corruption. Lahat sila may kaso (All of them have cases). And yet we cannot just move on because you want to be lawfully correct. So dahan-dahan lang tayo (We have to tread lightly),” he said.
“But with this kind of games they are playing, dirty games, I am forced now to ask the armed forces to takeover.
Duterte has admitted that he has a penchant for appointing men with police and military background to various government offices, saying they take orders better.