Military takeover of Customs 'illegal, unconstitutional,' expert says

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 30 2018 01:15 AM

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MANILA - President Duterte's order for the military to take over the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is illegal, unconstitutional, and will not work, a legal and governance expert said Monday.

"Malinaw na ilegal, malinaw na unconstitutional, isang impeachable [offense] ang ginagawa ni Pangulo dito kasi talagang culpable violation of the constitution," law professor Tony La Viña, former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, told "Bandila sa DZMM."

"Una, civilian authority should always be superior to military authority. Pangalawa, no soldier or official currently in service should be appointed or designated in any capacity to any civilian post. Pangatlo, you can't just remove civilian officials without due process or a law," he added.

Duterte said on Sunday that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would temporarily run the operations of BOC while the agency's personnel are on floating status.

The president's move came after former Customs chief Isidro Lapeña got flak and a red face over the P11-billion shabu in 4 magnetic lifters that slipped past port inspections in August. 

Instead of removing him for the slip, Duterte promoted Lapeña to a higher post as director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). 

He was replaced by Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) Administrator Rey Leonardo Guerrero, a former military chief. 

La Viña said military men running the BOC will not result in the outcome that Duterte wants.

"Ilang beses na nag-appoint ng military officials, it never works. Una, kahit may integredad 'yung iba, hindi nila kaya 'yung trabaho dahil napaka-technical... Magsu-suffer 'yung lahat ng businesses na nagi-import ng mga goods, magpo-port congestion tayo dahil diyan," he said.

"Kasi wala naman silang alam sa trabaho na 'yun. They were not trained for that job. So therefore, they will always fail. Of course, they will fail. Alam mong sundalo sila, pinadala mo sila sa giyera na walang bala, walang training, walang intelligence sa terrain, of course matatalo sila," he added.

Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution states that "the President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion."

Corruption in BOC may only be eliminated, La Viña said, by abolishing it and creating a new, highly-specialized agency.

"Actually, may hindi pa tayo ginawa. Abolish Customs [and replace it] with a new agency. Bago lahat ang employees, trained lahat ang employees," he said.

"Ilagay mo doon mga CPA [Certified Public Accountants], lawyers. Babayaran mo ng mabuti para walang kurakot," he added.

NOT ILLEGAL, UNCONSTITUTIONAL 

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier in the day said that there will be no disruption in the services of the Bureau Customs, saying it will not take long for the military to learn how to run the agency.

"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 Monday in a Palace press briefing.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the temporary takeover of the military of the BOC does not violate the civilian supremacy rule.

"The BOC [Guerrero] chief is a civilian; the BOC is under the DOF [Department of Finance]; and the DOF is under the President," Guevarra said.