President Duterte has flatly rejected a proposal of his allies in the House of Representatives that he take over the helm of the graft-riddled Bureau of Customs (BOC). PPD/File

Rody rejects emergency powers to take over BOC
Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - October 7, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Thanks but no thanks.

President Duterte has flatly rejected a proposal of his allies in the House of Representatives that he take over the helm of the graft-riddled Bureau of Customs (BOC).

In rejecting Congress-approved emergency powers to take over the Customs bureau, President Duterte expressed belief not everyone in the agency is corrupt.

“It’s unfair to the bureaucracy. Not all are magnanakaw (thieves),” President Duterte pointed out.

The President, however, conceded the graft and corruption problem in the second biggest revenue-collecting agency of the government has been deeply rooted in the system.

Asked by The STAR if he would accept the recommendation of the House ways and means committee to take over the BOC, President Duterte quickly replied: “No, ayoko na ako pa ang masisi (I don’t want to get the blame).”

The House ways and means committee made the recommendation in a report after a series of hearings on BOC corruption as well as on the issue of the smuggling in May of P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China through the Port of Manila.

The House committee chaired by Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua recommended that the BOC be reorganized into two new agencies, one for customs service and the other for security control.

Part of the recommendation is the setting of a two-year transition period for the President to do the job of Customs commissioner, as the bureaucracy is overhauled and the old structures of corruption phased out.

Duterte candidly admitted at a dinner with newspaper columnists last Tuesday at Malacañang that he does not want to take over the Customs bureau and get blamed for any failure to reform the agency, notorious for its “tara” or bribe sstem, smuggling and other forms of corruption.

“How would you correct the Customs bureau?” the President rhetorically asked.

He answered his own question by saying: “Getting available options and select the best course of action. It ain’t there when it’s not there.”

As far as Duterte is concerned, he has already found the right man to head the BOC, retired police general Isidro Lapeña. He named him to the top BOC post last month to replace resigned commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

Lapeña was director-general of the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency (PDEA) before his appointment as BOC chief.

Faeldon tendered his resignation after both the Senate and the House held him responsible for the shipment of shabu that slipped through Customs during his watch.

Customs fixer turned whistle-blower Mark Taguba exposed the alleged existence of the “Davao Group” as being behind the “tara” system at the BOC.

The group is supposedly headed by a certain “Tita Nanie” whose true identity has not been revealed.

The President’s son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, has been implicated in the activities of the alleged “Davao Group” with a Davao City councilor as the alleged go-between in the pay-offs.

Faeldon remains in Senate detention for his refusal to cooperate in the inquiry into BOC irregularities.

As former Davao City mayor for almost two decades, the President recalled having seen Lapeña at work while the latter was still a 2nd lieutenant in the military.  Lapeña, the President said, “earned his spurs in Mindanao. “

“He is honest. He can turn it (Customs bureau) upside down,” the President said.

In pushing for Duterte’s taking over the helm of BOC, the House ways and means committee invoked a constitutional provision that allows Congress to grant the President emergency powers to carry out a declared national policy “in times of war or other national emergency.”

“The occurrence of the national emergency may be considered when the Philippines’ first line of defense has been compromised because of the bureau’s corruption and incompetence in protecting and securing our border from entry of large-scale contraband, especially illegal drugs,” the committee said in its report. 

Meanwhile, Lapeña has ordered the transfer of five district collectors and three acting district collectors to the Compliance Monitoring Unit (CMU).

The CMU is considered a “freezer” where officials or personnel on floating status await their next appointment.

In an order dated Sept. 27, Lapeña ordered the reassignment of Port of Cebu district collector Elvira Cruz; Port of San Fernando, La Union district collector Romeo Allan Rosales; Port of Limay, Bataan district collector Julius Premediles; Port of Subic district collector Carmelita Talusan; and Port of Aparri, Cagayan district collector Tomas Alcid to the CMU.

Also transferred to the CMU were Port of Iloilo officer-in-charge operations officer Jose Naig; Port of Legaspi, Albay acting district collector Divina Garrido; and Port of Zamboanga acting district collector Halleck Valdez.

“The order shall take effect immediately and shall last until revoked,” the BOC chief said in his order. – Evelyn Macairan





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