Lapeña won’t quit as Customs chief

MANILA — Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña on Tuesday shrugged off calls for his resignation.

“I’m not (resigning). I still have a marching order I still have to accomplish. If I stay here for another one or two (years), we would have the reforms that we want of the BOC,” Lapeña said in an interview.

“You know, the BOC, it needs the reforms. I am doing it that is why I am hurting so many people. That is why this is happening,” the BOC chief added.

Lapeña, however, noted that he is serving at the pleasure of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Customs chief, meanwhile, said he is saddened by the attacks and criticisms against the bureau.

“There is no doubt that these attacks against me and the officers, men and women of the Bureau of Customs are (a) well-funded and coordinated attack to undermine the reforms I started,” Lapeña said in a statement he read during the press briefing.

“I have hurt the players, and the corrupt in the bureau. Hence, in anticipation of our anti-corruption drive, my detractors, led by a disgruntled employee, who herself has been the subject of investigations of corruption in the past, publicized and exaggerated information, which were already revealed in the various Congressional inquiries,” he added.

Lapeña said he believes that the issue being hurled against them is being floated by drug syndicates.

“This issue against us is being manipulated by the drug syndicates in order that it will be diverted away from them. Isn’t (it) that we should be focused on pinning them down?” he asked.

Lapeña added that these drug syndicates have penetrated the government.

“They exist in the Bureau of Customs, they exist in PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) and they exist in other branches of the government. Proof of this is the drug matrix recently shown by the President himself. They have penetrated the high echelons of the bureaucracy. It is imperative that we focus our energy on dismantling these drug syndicates,” he said.

“The issue on X-rays and all these noises are smokes and mirrors — technicalities being used to divert (the) public from the main issue. We should refocus. Even the President, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, has revealed the personalities behind the government drug syndicate. This is where we should drive our focus and energies — file cases against these personalities,” Lapeña added.

The Customs chief, however, stressed that the bureau is one with PDEA in the war against illegal drugs.