NEW Bureau of Customs (BoC) Commissioner and former Armed Forces chief of staff, Rey Leonardo ‘Jagger’ Guerrero, assured that no customs personnel would be “displaced” with the formal signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the agency, the AFP and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Monday, paving the way for the deployment of soldiers and PCG personnel at the waterfront.
In a talk with the media after the MOA signing, Guerrero stressed select personnel from the AFP and the PCG would “augment,” and not “displaced,” the bureau’s workforce.
“Walang papalitan,” Guerrero said. He quickly added however, that should this happen, it would be the result of the ongoing “performance review” being done on all customs officials and personnel and not because of the entry of military and coast guard personnel in his agency.
The signing of the MOA came barely two weeks after Pres. Rodrigo Duterte instructed the military to beef up the operation of the BoC to help Guerrero in the fight against the entrenched corruption in the agency and in combatting smuggling.
Signing for the concerned parties witnessed by representatives from the Department of Finance and the Department of Transportation, were Guerrero, AFP chief, Gen. Carlito Galvez and, PCG commandant, Adm. Elson Hermogino.
Guerrero, who was appointed Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) administrator only last April by the President on his retirement from the AFP, took over from Comm. Isidro Lapeña last October 31, who assumed the top customs post in July 2017.
Lapeña was transferred to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) after another drug-smuggling scandal rocked the agency last August and which prompted another round of congressional investigation.
As mentioned in the MOA “The prevention and suppression of smuggling, stamping out of illegal drugs, graft and corruption, and other fraudulent practices against tariff and customs laws are some of the primordial concerns essential to protect the vital interests of the country.”
It further stated that large-scale smuggling and the proliferation of illegal importation of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, and anti-social commodities, among others, “undermine” national interest and security.
Galvez, for his part, assured that military personnel to be deployed to the BoC are of “proven integrity,” adding those found engaging in corrupt and illegal practices would be court martialed and discharged from the service.
The AFP has committed for the formation of a ‘Military Assistance Group’ (MAG) drawn from its legal, technical, intelligence and other units to augment the bureau’s workforce on a six-month, rotation basis.
The PCG, on the other hand, committed to support the bureau in the enforcement of customs and other related laws.
Based on the MOA, the parties’ areas of cooperation would cover, capacity-building; monitoring; support mechanism; exchange of information; operating protocols and parameters; identifying opportunities and channeling of resources for research activities; and exploring other forms of cooperation.
A ‘Joint Monitoring Committee’ (JMC) is also to be formed for each of the bureau’s 17 collection districts in pursuit of the agreement’s objectives.