DESPITE the odds stacked against him in pushing through with the ‘10-Point Reform Program’ he has laid for the Bureau of Customs (BoC) that is being hampered by fresh allegations of corruption, Comm. Rey Leonardo ‘Jagger’ Guerrero said he is not giving up.
“Surrender is never part of my vocabulary,” said Guerrero, a bemedaled military officer who rose to its highest and most challenging position, Chief of Staff of the AFP.
Recounting his days as AFP chief, Guerrero said he may have made “mistakes” but giving up on his objectives has never entered his mind. “I have always come through,” he told this writer,
The BoC official made the remarks as the bureau is once again facing another round of congressional investigation prompted by a privilege speech delivered last May 29 by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Guerrero is the third customs commissioner in as many years appointed by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte after former Philippine Marines captain, Nicanor Faeldon and, former police general, Isidro Lapeña.
Both Faeldon and Lapeña were shown the door after each spent about a year in office on the same issues that are now hounding Guerrero: corruption and the entry of illegal drugs in the country.
Lacson, in his privilege speech, blamed BoC corruption for the repeated entry into the country of garbage from abroad.
The senator also claimed that the “tara system,” the regular delivery of bribe money by stakeholders to select customs offices and officials in exchange for faster release of their shipments, has not abated under Guerrero.
Lacson said he also does not believe the claim by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that the 146 kilos of shabu it recovered in Malabon City together with the BoC and the police a few days ago was a “controlled delivery” gone sour.
Despite the alleged continuation of the tara system at the waterfront, Lacson also stressed that Guerrero, according to his sources, remains “untainted” by corruption and that the customs’ chief’s integrity remains “intact.”
It is this reputation of always being able to “deliver” on what is expected from him by the government that Guerrero said he is trying to protect and maintain—despite the strain his new job is giving to his health and most importantly, to his family.
“Tanging ang aking reputasyon at pangalan ang maiiwan ko at dadalhin ng aking pamilya,” said Guerrero who also turned emotional during the interview.
Guerrero acknowledged that the “pressure” he is encountering now at the BoC is “very different,” compared to his previous government positions.
“Iba ang pressure dito; marami kang bagay na dapat timbangin, suriin. Ultimately, the responsibility belongs to me, the BoC’s success and its failures,” Guerrero pointed out.
But despite this, Guerrero made it known that if his critics and detractors think they can make him give up, they are wrong.
The BoC official never had the chance to enjoy his retirement from the military with his family, just weeks after his retirement in April 2018, Pres. Duterte appointed him as administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).
Less than six months later, Guerrero found himself in the shoes of Lapeña as customs chief, owing to his reputation as a strict yet fair person, a good administrator and his ‘never quit’ spirit.
Guerrero said he welcomes a Senate probe arising from Lacson’s speech, even as he expressed his “high respect” for the lawmaker.
“Nakahanda tayo; pupunta tayo sa Senado para magpaliwanag,” Guerrero said.