Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has bewailed the impending militarization of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) as it normalizes the unconstitutional act of granting the military civilian functions and power over civilian offices.
De Lima made the statement after Mr. Duterte directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to take over the BoC while the agency is hounded with corruption issues.
“The decision of President Duterte for the AFP to take over the Bureau of Customs sets a dangerous precedent,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 417.
“It is another one of Duterte’s populist moves designed to appeal to the prevailing frustration of the people with his own anemic response to the smuggling of billions of pesos of shabu,” she added.
Amid the P11-billion worth of shabu shipment that slipped into the BoC through magnetic lifters, Duterte ordered military personnel to take over the BoC while he is “sorting out how to effectively meet the challenges of corruption in this 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.
The former justice secretary maintained that Duterte himself brought about the present state of corruption at the BOC by failing to stop shabu shipments at the very first instance.
“It started with the 6.4-B peso shabu smuggling under then Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon. This was followed by another 11-B peso shipment under Isidro Lapeña,” she said.
“Duterte now resorts to this populist gimmick to get himself out of the problem he himself created when he did not go after Faeldon, instead recycling him to the Office of Civil Defense and now to BuCor. He again tolerated the same incompetence and connivance at the BOC by recycling Lapeña to TESDA…” she added.
The Senator from Bicol described as “governance by gimmickry” Duterte’s tactic to deploy the military to every conceivable crisis in the civilian bureaucracy which proves his “limited imagination” in solving the country’s problems.
She added that 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.
“Duterte’s belief that military rule is best for the country is borne out of his strongman style of governance. The limitations of this style become readily apparent when applied to complex social realities,” she said.
“This is shown in Duterte’s own frustration with his inability to accomplish anything in solving the perennial problems of corruption and criminality after almost halfway into his term,” she added.