Military takes over customs

October 29, 2018
Rodrigo R. Duterte

Fed up with drug smuggling scandals, President Duterte puts Bureau of Customs ‘temporarily’ under AFP.

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte announced Sunday evening that the Philippine military would take over the operations of the Bureau of Customs.

Speaking at a thanksgiving celebration in Davao City, Duterte also said that the BoC's employees would also be placed on "floating" status.

"They will be replaced all of them by military men. It will be a takeover of the Armed Forces in the matter of operating, in the meantime, while we are sorting out how to effectively meet the challenges of corruption in this country," said the president.

Duterte added that officials of the BoC's intelligence unit were to report to his office  at Malacañang, and they were to work from the Palace's gymnasium.

Philippines Coast Guardsmen were meanwhile to take over from the Custom's Police force.

Duterte explained that he was forced to take drastic action given the "dirty games" being played at the BoC, in which corrupt officials hide behind procedural requirements to keep from being rooted out.

"You must be an idiot not to understand. You say that you are honest, that you are not part of the cabal there... If that is your line, I cannot move, and you stay there. And I have to speculate if you are really a gangster working for the Bureau of Customs. I do not have the time for that," the President explained.

Also, much like his "declaration of lawless violence "after a bomb killed 14 victims in Davao City in 2016, the "lawlessness" at the BoC had likewise prompted him to take sweeping action.

Last Thursday, Isidro Lapeña was removed as Customs Commissioner after a BoC official accused the then Customs chief of taking no action despite being told that billions in illegal drugs were being smuggled into the country using magnetic lifters.

Lapeña's predecessor, Nicanor Faeldon, was also removed after P6.4-billion worth of shabu slipped past authorities May of last year.
Civilian supremacy

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said President Duterte’s military takeover of the graft-ridden Bureau of Customs is only a “’temporary measure” that would not violate the rule of civilian supremacy.

For Guevarra such action is a necessary thing to put a stop to the smuggling of contraband items, particularly illegal drugs.

“Putting the Bureau of Customs under the watchful eye of the AFP is a temporary measure to ensure that massive entry of illegal drugs, which threatens public safety, is immediately stopped,” the DoJ chief said.

Guevarra said Duterte’s move will not violate civilian supremacy.

“The President, as Chief Executive, has the power of supervision and control over the entire Executive Department, and is duty-bound to ensure that all laws be faithfully executed. However, civilian rule shall at all times be supreme,” he said, adding that the BoC head is a civilian.