Lapena out of Customs; other agency heads in floating status amid shabu shipment controversy
President Rodrigo Duterte has removed Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena and placed on floating status all executives of the agency amid reported entry of multi-billion peso illegal drugs in the country.
Duterte announced this on Thursday during his speech at the 117th anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard in Manila.
"General Lapena will move to TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority). I will promote you to a Cabinet member position," said Duterte.
Lapena will replace Guiling Mamondiong who will run in the local election in Mindanao.
Lapena was present in the event. Prior to Duterte's announcement, Lapena, in a press briefing in Malacanang earlier in the day, refused to quit as the head of the Bureau of Customs, saying he had to accomplish the President's directives, which were stopping corruption and increasing revenue collection.
Lapena admitted he was not told beforehand about the President's decision.
He only learned about his removal from the BOC during Duterte's speech.
But Lapena said his new post was a "promotion" as he thanked Duterte for giving him a chance to serve the
country in another capacity.
Lapena was a subject of criticisms and was even figured in a public squabble with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino after the P6.8-billion shabu shipment allegedly slipped past the BOC.
PDEA has said that the four empty magnetic lifters found in Cavite last August contained shabu, while Lapena said otherwise.
But in the House inquiry on Wednesday, Lapena changed his position and agreed that the lifters could really contain shabu following the examination conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways on the lifters that they were designed to conceal cargoes inside.
Maritime Industry Authority administrator Rey Leonardo Guerrero, a former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, would replace Lapena at the BOC.
"General Jagger Guerrero you are to move to the Bureau of Customs...I know that you are reluctant to...I know that you are happy there and you are contented, so I've heard, but the demands of public service demands of public service and the need for honest men requires your presence there," Duterte said.
He said he would look for Guerrero's replacement in MARINA.
But he said Guerrero's successor would be likely a retired Navy or Coast Guard official.
"Just to give Jagger also a chance, I am ordering the freezing of all, all section department units of the Bureau of Customs out," he said.
He said all Customs officials and staff would be placed on floating status.
Duterte ordered the Coast Guard and the Navy to assist the BOC.
"The outer periphery will be taken care of by the Coast Guard and maybe you can utilize military men. The excess there, those who do not have work especially the women," he said.
He said the new staff could be trained in two or three days, particularly those who would be handling the X-rays.
"If you are corrupt, then no amount of X-rays that --- that’s there filled with shabu, you can never see it," he said.
Duterte said he did not mind if the change of people at the BOC would mean delay in the release of cargoes for one year.
He added there would be minor revamps in other agencies. Celerina Monte/DMS