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Replacing Guerrero now is ‘political suicide’

BEFORE proceeding, here’s greeting first today’s ‘Birthday Boy,’ my kumpare, kaibigan, brother, mentor, friend and personal bank account when necessity demands it, DENR Undersecretary and former National Press Club president, Benny Antiporda.

May God always bless you and always give you the wisdom of Solomon and the courage of David in braving all the challenges and problems that is common in any “snake pit” called, the government bureaucracy. Ingat ka palagi, brod!

And of course, advance happy birthday too, this coming February 18, to my dearest mother, who would be turning 76 but still healthy and beautiful. Maligayang kaarawan, Inay.


ON any regular day, when reporting to the office of Bureau of Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo ‘Jagger’ Guerrero, for instruction or guidance, it has become a standard joke among his subordinates to “confirm” if they would (still) be reporting to him—or to the “new” commissioner of customs.

As among the most “coveted”—and intrigue-laden—government office, one of the annoying realities for any customs chief is to almost daily get the “news” or the “rumor” that he is about to be replaced, or has just been replaced by someone else.

Indeed, last week, when the BOC celebrated its 119th anniversary and the weeks and days and years before that, the persistent rumor is that Guerrero is “on his way out.

The position of Customs commissioner, minus the competence and ability of the person, is a position mainly anchored on “trust and confidence” between the appointee and the appointing authority, the Philippine President. In short, despite the title and job description, the OCCOM (Office of the Commissioner of Customs) is a political office.

To be fair to Guerrero, he never lobbied for the post—his surprise was not fake when PDU30 appointed him as customs chief in October 2018.

But the very much competent man that he is—you never get to command our entire AFP if you don’t have the brains and the talents—Guerrero labored on, implementing projects and programs left and right that enabled the BOC to not only improve its image but also, surpass its assigned target by more than P33 billion last year. And 2020, everyone admits, is the “worse year” for the country since our “liberation” in 1945.

But here is my take on the matter of “replacing” Guerrero, which, many said is anchored on “political necessity” with the national elections now just around the corner.

Is the Palace willing to risk a “political fallout” from the decision? For removing Guerrero would need a very credible excuse, one that the opposition cannot exploit all the way to the polling places next year.

And right now, I cannot think of any plausible, digestible excuse.

And what would the international community, our foreign lenders mainly, say? Can we deliver on our debt payments that is dependent on the BOC and the BIR meeting their annual targets?

And our business community too, how would they react? Does the country really need a new customs chief at this time when economic recovery is everybody’s priority?

For in actual practice, any disruption in the BOC ‘chain of command’ always result to a ‘wait and see’ attitude among businessmen.

And who would be the replacement, by the way? Anyone from the retired and active generals from the Philippine National Police, so the rumor goes.

Wow, if the BOC is a “dirty place,” then without a doubt, the PNP is far, much worse.

Well, if Pres. Duterte is now ready to sink his popularity and credibility as the election season nears, that is entirely up to him.

Let us just remind the Palace that other than the economic repercussions, replacing Guerrero at this point and by somebody utterly lacking in standing and credibility, is not “political necessity” but, “political suicide.

And you can bet your last dime in the bank on that.