MANILA — Former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña has asked President Rodrigo Dutere to expedite the full automation of Customs to reduce red tape and corruption within the bureau.
“Mr. President, sir, may I recommend this strongly sir that we expedite the automation,” Lapeña made the request during last Tuesday night’s Cabinet meeting and lecture on militarization and drugs in Malacañang.
Lapeña said he was supposed to roll out the automation in January next year.
“That’s the solution actually sir in the corruption that’s ongoing because mawawala ‘yung (it will eliminate) human contact,” he said.
The former Customs chief said revenue collection will also increase “because we will now be collecting the rightful duties and taxes with automation”.
Duterte had recently promoted Lapeña to Cabinet rank as new Director-General of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Lapeña was replaced by former Armed Forces Chief and Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Ray Leonardo ‘Jagger’ Guerrero.
During the Cabinet meeting, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos ‘Sonny’ Dominguez III commended Lapeña for improving the revenue collections in the BOC.
“I just want to commend Sid Lapeña because during his watch our collections went up from an average of PHP38 billion a month to PHP50 billion a month,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez added that monthly revenue collection during Lapeña’s final month at BOC was historic high of PHP56 billion.
“I account that to the fact that the management of Sid has been quite effective, however, again, you cannot shut the door to everything although you try your best,” Dominguez said.
The DOF chief challenged Guerrero to meet Lapeña’s performance in the Customs.
Duterte said he is really “hell-bent” in stopping corruption as he defended his move to place another retired military official and some AFP personnel to get rid of corruption in the BOC.
The President clarified his directive was for chiefs of offices and sections chiefs to be placed on floating status while their assistants will continue to work.
“When I called in the Army to help the Bureau of Customs, there was no designation, there was no appointment and there was never an instruction for them to take over the functions of the employee,” he said.
He admitted “something really terribly wrong with Customs” after a multi-billion shabu shipment slipped past the bureau.
“Until I am satisfied that law and order is established in that area, the presence of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will be there,” Duterte said.
He also explained there was no militarization in the BOC, saying military will just assist the police.
“Anong militarization? Takot naman… Bakit matakot? (What militarization? Why be afraid?) Since when did the military commit an abuse here in this country during my term? Since when did I condone any wrongdoing of any military man? Tell me,” Duterte said.
“It’s not a matter of designation or appointment. This is a national security issue. I have every right to call on the Armed Forces to assist the police,” he added.
He said illegal drug problem is a national security issue as it affected 1.6 million Filipinos.
“I’m invoking national security threat and what I’m doing is just assisting a former military man to do his job correctly,” the President explained.
“Drug menace is the number one threat to national security linking drugs not only to its significant influence in the rise of heinous crimes but also it negatively affects the economy and the role it plays in the corruption of our collections even in our law enforcement agencies,” he added.
He said he will issue a memorandum circular directing the entire government machinery to mobilize its assets and to take an active role in government’s anti-illegal drug campaign nationwide. (PNA-northboundasia.com