Palace hopes Guerrero learns from predecessors’ mistakes

MANILA — Just because billions worth of shabu have slipped through the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the past, doesn’t mean it’s going to slip through the bureau “forever.”

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this comment as he expressed confidence that newly-appointed BOC chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero will not repeat the same mistakes done by his predecessors.

Guerrero, retired general and Maritime Industry Authority administrator, took the helm at the BOC following the transfer of its former head, Isidro Lapeña, to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Prior to Lapeña, the BOC was headed by Nicanor Faeldon, who is now director of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

Both Lapeña and Faeldon were transferred to different agencies after two separate incidents of multi-billion-peso “shabu” shipments slipped past the BOC under their watch.

“It doesn’t mean that when nakalusot ka once ay makakalusot ka forever (when drugs slipped through once, drugs can slip through forever),” Panelo said.

Panelo shrugged off criticism that President Rodrigo R. Duterte was merely appointing the same ex-military men with similar backgrounds.

“Not necessarily, because you learn from lessons, from mistakes. So hopefully, Commissioner Guerrero would learn from the lessons or the mistakes by the previous administration of that department has committed or has omitted,” Panelo said.

Panelo also defended Duterte’s decision to appoint uniformed men anew noting that appointing them in Cabinet positions is effective because of their so-called “military discipline.”

“The culture of the military men is different from the civilians. They follow orders, they talk less and argue less… they just work. And they’re always on the go,” Panelo said.

Earlier, Duterte said Lapeña and Faeldon were both victims of the rotten system in the BOC.

Duterte said “dirty games” being played by corrupt BOC personnel have prompted him to ask the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to take over the BOC.

Meanwhile, Panelo said he will ask Duterte about proposals to privatize the BOC during Tuesday night’s Cabinet meeting.

“The President has not made any comment on that. There will be a Cabinet meeting tonight or at 4:45 p.m. today. Hopefully, I’ll hear something about it and we’ll report to you,” Panelo said.

Panelo also assured that Guerrero is on top of the situation and he will undertake all measures geared towards the elimination of corruption in the bureau.