Palace says Lapena's "promotion" to Tesda long been planned
Malacanang said on Friday President Rodrigo Duterte had really a plan of "promoting" Bureau of Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena as head of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
It was just fast-tracked due to the issue at the BOC involving the alleged P11 billion worth of shabu that slipped past the agency, said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
"With respect to Commissioner Lapena, his transfer to Tesda had long been readied. But it was just sped up. The President, he wants to spare him (Lapena) from intrigue," he said in a radio interview.
"The promotion was accelerated, he's now a Cabinet member because the BOC is just a bureau under the Department of Finance. The announcement could have been next week," he added.
Duterte announced on Thursday during the anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard of transferring Lapena to Tesda and replacing him by Maritime Industry Authority administrator Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
Lapena will replace Guiling Mamodiong who will run in a local post in Mindanao in May 2019 elections.
Panelo said Duterte's marching order to Guerrero is to get rid of corruption at the BOC.
He lamented that corruption at Customs could be eliminated if the people there would have spiritual transformation.
"Because if you are internally transformed, your opponent is your self. You will be ashamed of yourself to do bad because you are already spiritualized," he added.
Lapena's transfer to Tesda came after his public squabble with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino over the P6.8-billion shabu shipment that allegedly slipped past the BOC. PDEA recently changed to P11 billion the estimated amount of shabu that entered the country using the magnetic lifters found in Cavite last August.
PDEA has said the four empty magnetic lifters contained shabu, while Lapena said otherwise.
But in the House inquiry on Wednesday, Lapena changed his position and agreed that the lifters could have really contained shabu following an examination by the Department of Public Works and Highways on the lifters that they were designed to conceal cargoes inside. Celerina Monte/DMS