BARELY two months after assuming office, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña’s mettle may be tested after the Bureau of Customs Employees Union (Bocea) warned it is poised to launch protest actions that could paralyze the agency’s operations.
Bocea president Remedios Princesa told The Manila Times on Sunday that the union is currently consulting with its lawyers and members on the planned mass actions.
Pincesa said union members planned the protests because of Lapeña’s continued refusal to meet Bocea to discuss employees’ concerns, particularly on the reshuffle of personnel.
She said Lapeña did not consult Bocea when he ordered the transfer of 30 section chiefs of the formal entry divisions of the Port of Manila (PoM) and the Manila International Container Port (MICP).
The transfers, Princesa claimed, placed affected employees on “floating status,” similar to what happened to 10 district collectors who were transferred to the Compliance Monitoring Unit (CMU).
“That is tantamount to constructive dismissal according to Civil Service [Commission] rules and regulations,” she said. She conceded that Lapeña has the prerogative to reshuffle employees.
Princesa said some of those transferred to outports were sick and need constant medical attention.
“Those employees with special concerns should not be assigned to outports. They are already in floating status. Why not assign them at the human resources (HR) division here? We are not asking for their reinstatement, we are just asking for a little consideration,” she stressed.
Bocea also expressed concern over Lapeña’s appointments of agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to different sensitive positions in the BoC, like the Intelligence and Investigation Service, Enforcement Security Service, Account Management Office, Import Assessment Service, and Administration Office.
Lapeña has also disclosed that he will name two PDEA officials as deputy commissioners.
Princesa said the positions should be filled in by BoC insiders who “know inside-out” the Tariff and Customs Code and other related laws.
“We are not belittling the intelligence and capacity of the PDEA men the Commissioner have brought in. But how can you say that they are experts when they were trained only overnight?” she asked.
“He can replace them, it’s his prerogative, but he should not remove [or put in floating status]those customs people who were trained for almost a decade in [the Customs code], tariff valuation and tariff classification,” Princesa stressed.
Lapeña had said that he was open for a dialogue with the union.
“I take this opportunity to also allay the fears of some customs employees, in particular those from the Bureau of Customs Employees Association, who feel that the BOC will reportedly become a ‘PDEA extension’. There is no truth to this and this will not happen,” Lapeña said in a statement.