SOLDIERS who will be assigned to guard the operations of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) will not be given appointments or designations, Malacañang said yesterday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the clarification after critics claimed that President Duterte’s order to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to man the corruption-ridden bureau would violate the Constitution.
“The President is not appointing or designating any member of the Armed Forces,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing yesterday..
“These people will be there first to make their presence felt and hopefully intimidate those corrupt people there,” he added.
Panelo claimed that there will be no takeover that will happen soon but he insisted that “if it comes to a point that it is needed, the Constitution allows it.”
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said that the Constitutional provision prohibiting the appointment of a member of the armed forces to a civilian position in the government should not take precedence over the provision which states that the “prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people.”
“You cannot let, or you cannot let this President hostage to a particular provision without relating to previous provisions that grant him the authority as well as the obligation and the duty to serve and to protect this nation,” Panelo said.
Panelo said that the rampant corruption at the BoC can be considered a “state of lawlessness” that must be addressed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Panelo said that when there is “lawless violence,” the President, according to the Constitution, can call for the military’s intervention.
“The state of lawless violence would refer to what is happening in BoC. Now the lawless violence would certainly refer to what is happening in BoC. There is a state of lawlessness there,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“If you can bring in hundreds of kilos of drugs, there must be some grave wrong in that area and there is a state of lawlessness there,” he added.
Panelo went on to say that “violence” does not only mean “physical” violence.
“It’s not just physical violence. You do violence to the Constitution, you do violence to the law. That’s a state of lawlessness,” he said.
He also explained that the soldiers who will be tapped to man the controversial bureau will still have to follow AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr., and not incoming BoC chief Rey Guerrero.