Newly-appointed Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero warned he would use the “full force of the law” against people who would use his name to illegally facilitate the release of contrabands at the bureau’s ports.
Guerrero, who vowed to be more transparent in the operations of the bureau, said he would not allow erring personnel to tarnish his good name which he had cultivated for the past three decades.
The former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of staff said his top priority is to cleanse the bureau of corrupt BOC officials and personnel that continue to taint the image of the bureau.
Guerrero said there will be no military takeover, since Customs officials will still run the bureau, contrary to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that he would put military personnel to replace customs employees to stop corruption.
The former Maritime Industry Authority chief is the third Customs chief to be appointed by Duterte.
Before Former Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, former Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon also resigned from his post due to the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China which also slipped through the country under his watch.
Like Lapeña, Faeldon was reassigned to other government posts.
Guerrero on Wednesday promised to be on top of the situation to rid the bureau of corruption and avoid the slip of shipments.
He also called on the suppprt and cooperation of to keep the dignity and nobility of public service.
He said he will “lead by example” and ensure that every transaction in the bureau is “documented, reported and transparent.”
In the Senate, opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan that despite the appointment of Guerrero to the top BOC post, he doubts if Malacanang in serious in chasing big-time drug syndicates, which he claimed were behind fhe smuggling of tons of illegal drugs that slipped through the BOC ports.
“I do not see how he cannot succeed,” said Pangilinan, referring to Guerrero.
Still, he questioned the seriousness of the Palace in cleansing the BOC of big drug syndicates.
“Is Malacanang indeed serious to run after big drug syndicates behind the availability of funds?” he asked.
He sees as “serious” Guerrero’s resolve whom he said has the full support of the Palace.
Pangilinan was reacting to Guerrero’s warning against BOC personnel not to tarnish his name as he vowed to use full extent of his power in getting rid of corruption in the agency.
On the privatization of the BOC, Pangilinan, meanwhile said, the idea is “worth considering” although it may need to be studied further.
“It is still an option instead of the military takeover which is clearly contrary to the Constitution.”
Senator Sonny Angara expressed his belief that some functions at the Bureau of Customs which are prone to corruption might be better off privatized.
He said collections were healthy when SGS was performing valuation functions in the 90s but it was discontinued.
“It is worth studying given the past incidents of smuggled and contraband goods,” Angara said when sought for comment on the proposed privatization of the BOC.
Senate President Ralph Recto said it would be difficult to privatize both Customs and BIR.
“Better to use technology ICT and reform management systems and structure,” he said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto, for his part, said he also observed Guerrero’s seriousness to take on the job.
“He sounds very serious,” Sotto said.
Senator Chiz Escudero, on the other hand, wished the new BOC commissioner well and hoped he will fulfill his promises.
“I wish him well and will hold him to his word. I just hope that he learns the ins and outs of the BOC so that these so called corrupt officials won’t simply run circTgles around him. He must be able to match his good intentions with competence in his new position. Again, I wish him well,” said Escudero.
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Ralph Recto said he supports the initiative on the privatization of the BOC, since other countries have privatized some functions of their revenue generating offices which resulted in improved efficiency.
“We all hope so. It’s a difficult task but hope springs eternal,” Recto said.