Customs deputy commissioner fired over foreign travels

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Customs deputy commissioner fired over foreign travels
Prudente was out of the country when his sacking was announced.
Bureau of Customs Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte continued his firing spree yesterday, announcing that he was kicking out Noel Patrick Sales Prudente as Customs deputy commissioner over supposed excessive personal travels abroad.

Prudente was out of the country when his sacking was announced.

Duterte warned government officials that there would be no letup in the campaign against corruption.

He revealed that there is a continuous gathering of information on erring officials of government.

“I will cut short the agony of Congress. I’m firing him today, Noel Patrick Sales Prudente,” Duterte said in a speech at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Prudente, who was appointed last February as replacement of former Magdalo soldier and deputy commissioner Gerardo Gambala, had “personal travel to Singapore, personal travel to Europe,” the President said of the former director of the Philippine National Railways.

Duterte announced Prudente’s sacking at the BOC main office in Manila’s Port Area after witnessing the destruction of P34.71 million worth of smuggled motorcycles that included 112 units of brand new Vespa scooters, four secondhand motorcycles, a Mitsubishi Pajero, two Land Rovers and one Volvo car.

Instead of resorting to corrupt activities, Duterte advised government officials to ask assistance from him or his office.

“Kung may problema kayo, paalamin ninyo ako (If you have a problem, let me know). If it’s work-related, promotion, then I will intervene if there is something to correct,” he said.

“But just like the military and the police, I would like to tell everybody except maybe, in the higher-ups. Sometimes there’s a conflict of principles. But here in the lower (ranks), I really do not care if you – what’s the color of your character,” Duterte said.

BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña yesterday said that in a span of three months, or since February when Prudente joined the bureau, he has gone on three personal travels –twice to Singapore and the current one to Europe.

Lapeña said that he would follow the orders of Duterte and “very soon” issue the orders for the removal of Prudente as deputy commissioner of the BOC’s Management Information System Technology Group.

When asked why he approved Prudente’s personal leaves, the BOC commissioner said that under the law, the deputy commissioner was allowed to go on vacation leave.

But when they received an invitation to attend a hearing at the House of Representatives, Lapeña cancelled his leave. Unfortunately, Prudente had already left the country.

It was Lapeña who recruited Prudente, then a director of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), to join the BOC.

In fact, Prudente calls Lapeña tito or uncle.

But Lapeña denied that they are relatives. “He only calls me ‘tito’, that is normal in Filipino culture… If you are part of my staff we will be close to each other. But that does not mean we would tolerate excessive” travels.

Lapeña first met Prudente in Tagaytay, during a campaign sortie of Duterte, who was then running for president.

“We saw each other again and while we were talking he seems to be knowledgeable about information technology – that is how it came about. During that time I was scouting for someone to appoint to the IT,” he added. – With Evelyn Macairan

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