De Lima seeks Senate probe on Duterte’s militarization of BoC

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate inquiry into Mr. Duterte’s unconstitutional move of ordering the military to temporarily take over the Bureau of Customs (BoC) while the agency is hounded with corruption issues.

In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 949, De Lima expressed concern over the adverse effect of appointing military personnel on the regular functions of the agency.

“The militarization of the BoC may impede the operations of the BoC and as a result, may gravely affect collection of revenues, the lifeblood of government,” she said.

The functions of the BoC, as per Republic Act No. 10863, include “assessment and collection of customs revenues from imported goods and other dues, fees, charges, fines and penalties; border control to prevent entry of smuggled goods; and prevention and suppression of smuggling and other customs fraud,” among others.

Last Oct. 29, amid the P11-billion worth of shabu shipment that slipped into the BoC through magnetic lifters, Duterte has unprecedentedly put the agency under the control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), reasoning that it was “part of his declaration of a state of lawlessness in the country.”

Mr. Duterte transferred former Customs Chief Isidro Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and replaced him by retired AFP Chief of Staff and head of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

Later denying his order, Duterte said appointment of an active-duty soldier to a post in the BoC and “takeover” of the military merely means that heads of offices and sections within the bureau would be placed on floating status and the military called in to merely assist them.

The Senator from Bicol maintained that Duterte should follow the Constitution which provides that military officers in active service cannot be appointed to a civilian position in the government especially because there is no “state of lawlessness” in BoC.

“The operationalization of the military take-over of the BOC threatens to violate the provisions of the Constitution on the proscription against the assumption by active military officers of civilian functions and civilian offices, aside from other basic principles of a republican and democratic government as enshrined therein,” she said.

In her Dispatch from Crame No. 417, De Lima said the President’s response to ask the military to solve every problem of the country also reflects his predisposition to ultimately have a military junta take over the country.

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