LESS than a week after being named by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as the new Customs commissioner, former Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, yesterday formally took over the top Customs post from former police director, Isidro Lapeña.
In his speech during a well-attended turnover ceremony at the Port of Manila presided by Department of Finance undersecretary, Mark Dennis Joven, Guerrero vowed to serve the bureau “with focus and integrity.”
At the same time, Guerrero also issued the warning that the campaign against graft and corrruption that has always been the bane of the agency, would continue and it would be “both decisive and unrelenting.”
Guerrero also reminded his audience that “trust” is the “basic element” to “reforming” and “rebuilding” the bureau. “Without trust, change cannot happen; trust is the basic element in teamwork,” he added.
Until last Thursday, Guerrero was the administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and was with Lapeña at an official function of the MARINA when the Chief Executive announced his appointment to the BoC and the promotion of Lapeña as director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which is a Cabinet-rank position.
The President decided to transfer Lapeña to another government post over the controversy resulting from another huge shipment of illegal drugs that managed to slip out of the Manila International Container Port (MICP) last July but was only discovered, by “accident,” last August.
The ongoing probe by both houses of Congress on the incident is yet to be concluded.
Sources said since being named as the new customs chief, Guerrero and Lapeña had already spent several hours together for a “smooth transition” and in order not to unduly affect the bureau’s operations.
Although Pres. Duterte had earlier announced that he also wants all officials and personnel at the BoC temporarily removed, what’ was clear yesterday was that immediately affected are all the five customs deputy commissioners.
This was made clear during the speech of Usec. Joven, who wished all the deputy commissioners “good luck” in their “new endeavours.”
In his last speech as Customs commissioner, Lapeña enumerated the success of the ‘5-Point Reform Program’ that he followed in turning around the bureau’s revenue performance and its negative image arising from another illegal drug smuggling incident that happened middle of last year, under the term of his predecessor, Comm. Nicanor Faeldon.
After the turnover ceremony, Lapeña immediately motored to TESDA, his new assignment, while Guerrero immediately presided a close-door, “command conference” with the career officials of the bureau.